Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

January 30, 2015

Global Voices
As a Drone Captures Global Voices at 10, a Few Thoughts from Cebu

Global Voices community members from 60 countries captured by a drone. Image countresy @ka_bino and PR Works.

I spent last week in Cebu, the second largest city in The Philippines, with three hundred journalists, activists and media scholars from more than sixty countries. The occasion was the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit, a biennial conference on the state of citizen media, blogging, journalism and activism. This summit coincided with the tenth anniversary of Global Voices, the citizen media website and community Rebecca MacKinnon and I helped to found in late 2004.

We’ve held the conference six times, and it’s always been an excuse to gather core members of the Global Voices community for planning, training and building solidarity. More than 800 staff and volunteers run Global Voices, and since we have no home office, headquarters or physical presence, the conference provides a physicality and presence that’s sorely lacking in most of our interactions. Since the Summit began as an excuse for holding our internal meeting, it’s always a wonderful party and family reunion, but it’s not always been the most thoughtfully programmed event. (I’m allowed to say that because I helped program some of those conferences.)

This year’s incarnation (which I had absolutely nothing to do with planning!) reset expectations about what the Citizen Media Summit could be. It was two packed days of panels, workshops and discussions, tackling some of the most interesting a challenging problems facing online writing and activism: threats to the open internet, social media and protests movements, trolling and online abuse, intermediary censorship. I found myself blogging and tweeting frenetically, trying to capture the conversations I was hearing in panels and the halls, soaking up as much news, information and perspective as I could from friends from around the world.

Global Voices editors and authors will be processing notes from the sessions into articles over the next few days, but I decided to use my flights from tropical Cebu into a northeastern blizzard to reflect on some of the key insights I got from the Global Voices community, the amazing Filipino netizens who hosted us and our guests from around the world.

Social media is moving into closed, private channels

Global Voices started as a project that rounded up blog posts from around the world, when possible organizing them into themed stories illustrating an aspect of the social media conversation in a country or region. Over time, we began offering citizen media perspectives on breaking news through the eyes of publicly readable citizen media: blogs, tweets, videos and public Facebook posts.

I’m starting to wonder whether we’re going to be able to keep operating this way in the future. Increasingly, citizen media is private, or semi-public, which raises really interesting questions about how we use it in our journalism. For example, in China, many political discussions shifted from Weibo (which is primarily public) when the company began verifying the identities of users. Many of those discussions moved to WeChat, where groups with hundreds or thousands of members feel like listservs or bulletin boards.

Is it ethical and fair to source stories from these semi-public spaces? There’s probably no general answer – it’s likely to be something that needs to be answered on a case-by-base basis. If the answer is that something can only be published if everyone on the list agrees, it’s going to make it very difficult to continue doing this work, and we’re likely to lose some of the ability to report on important conversations that haven’t reached broadcast media. If we don’t handle these questions carefully, we’re going to alienate the people we’re hoping to work with an amplify.

Whether conversations in these spaces are treated as public or private speech will be deeply important for journalism as more conversations move from explicitly public social media spaces into these complex semi-public spaces.

Platforms matter

Many of our conversations with activists suggested that the organizational work of activism has shifted from public-facing tools like Twitter and Facebook into mostly private tools like WhatsApp. When revolutionaries start planning social movement on WhatsApp, the architecture and policies of the platform become matters of intense importance. WhatsApp’s designers likely didn’t anticipate their app being used to coordinate revolutions, and once the tool is used that way in repressive environments, it raises questions of whether the platform is sufficiently careful in protecting its users. One answer is for activists to move to more secure platforms, like TextSecure. I’ve long argued, though, that most activism happens on the most accessible platforms, so it’s not easy to talk activists off from WhatsApp. That makes efforts like Moxie Marlinspike’s successful campaign to get WhatsApp to use end to end encryption incredibly important.

Platforms also matter because they control what speech is possible. Rebecca MacKinnon’s “Consent of the Networked” has been the key text for people to understand the problems of intermediary censorship, and in a session she ran on her new project, Ranking Digital Rights, Jillian C. York of the EFF explained that she sees community moderation policies as functionally controlling what sort of speech is possible on Facebook. Jill now worries more about corporate controls on speech than government controls, citing instances where Facebook has taken down pro-Palestinian speech that had been incorrectly flagged as supporting terrorism, while allowing far more inflammatory pro-Israel speech. The simple fact that Facebook took down the “We Are Khaled Said” Facebook group – which it later celebrated for helping organize the Tahrir Square protests – shows that the platform often gets speech issues wrong, with potentially serious consequences.

For some members of the Global Voices community, the failure to remove hate speech from these platforms is as disturbing as the potential of these platforms to be censored. Thant Sin from Myanmar described the ferocious climate of Burmese-language Facebook threads, where violent threats against religious groups, particularly the Muslim Rohingya, are alarmingly common. When he worked with other Myanmarese Facebook users to detect and report these threads, they were unsuccessful, for the basic reason that Facebook’s moderators could not read Burmese.

When I tweeted this, Elissa Shevinsky – CEO of Glimpse, a messaging app startup – asked why Facebook doesn’t simply hire Burmese speakers to address this issue. The answer is simple and unfortunate: the abuse team at any social media company is viewed as a cost center, and is inevitably under-resourced. Facebook and other companies rely on “flagging” by community members to identify content that should be further investigated or removed. (Kate Crawford and Tarleton Gillespie wrote a wonderful paper titled “What is a Flag For?” which explores the limitations of flags as a way of controlling and commenting on online speech – it’s a must-read for people interested in this topic.) When flagged content is in an unfamiliar language, Facebook has two bad alternatives: they can leave it (potentially ignoring hate speech) or block it (potentially censoring political speech.) Perhaps Facebook shouldn’t expand into markets where they cannot adequately monitor their content… but it’s hard to demand that a company develop robust mechanisms for abuse in a language before they have users in that language.

Jillian and colleagues at are now documenting the content Facebook and others block as a way of mapping the space of allowable speech online. I’m fascinated by this idea, and wonder whether the method Crawford and Gillespie use in their paper – flagging content to see how platforms respond – might work for Jillian. (Perhaps putting more offensive speech into the world to see how platforms respond isn’t a net positive for the world – there may be enough anger and hate online that simply documenting it well is enough.)

Images, not words 

I’m a wordy guy, as anyone who’s fought through one of my blogposts knows. But one of my big takeaways from this conference was the power and prominence of images as a form of political speech. Georgia Popplewell organized a massive session titled “The Revolution Will Be Illustrated”, where 13 Global Voices community members introduced us to work by cartoonists, illustrators and designers from their countries.


Many of the artists featured were traditional cartoonists, like Crisis Valero of Spain or Mexican-American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz. But a few were graphic designers like Filipino activist Pixel Offensive, or Global Voices’s own Kevin Rothrock. Pixel Offensive produces simple, eye-catching graphics using images of Filipino politicians recontextualized, captioned and otherwise remixed. PXO’s work has a distinct color signature – yellow and black – which are the colors of the Aquino government. It’s a visual hijacking of the Presidential brand. PXO’s work isn’t as artistically skillful as that of an artist like Alcaraz, but that may well be part of the message: visual activism should be open to everyone who has something to say.

Kevin Rothrock clearly got that message. Co-editor of RuNet Echo, Global Voices’s opinionated and often controversial section focused on the Russian internet, Rothrock enjoys making trouble online, taunting the trolls who respond to his coverage. His posts for Global Voices are usually accompanied with satirical collages, where Vladimir Putin is remixed into every conceivable internet meme. Not every collage works for me, but some are hilarious, and it’s easy to imagine them spreading virally online.


Image mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

What I most appreciated about Rothrock’s talk was that he encouraged the bloggers and writers in the audience to adopt his simple collage techniques for their own work, offering tricks of the trade. (Logos work well, as they’re designed to work in lots of different contexts, and Vladimir Putin shirtless, on horseback, makes any scene better.) Much as activists have learned to speak in short, tweetable statements to get their message to spread online, it may be time for activists and journalists to learn how to craft fast-spreading visual memes in the hopes of reaching broader audiences.

Representation, if not revolution 

In the wake of the Occupy movement, Indignados, Gezi and other recent popular protests, it’s reasonable to ask whether protest movements are more powerful for expressing dissent than they are in making fundamental changes to systems of power. Listening to panelists speak about protests in Mexico, Syria, Ukraine and Hong Kong, I thought of Zeynep Tufekçi’s idea that digital tools have made it easier to bring people out into the streets, but may have made the groups assembled with those tools weaker and more brittle. (Because it’s so easy to bring 50,000 people to a protest, Tufekçi argues, organizers have to do a lot less work ahead of time and end up having less influence and social capital with those protesters than they did in earlier years. When the protest ends and it’s time to try and influence governance, those movements have a hard time moving into power.)

One of the major messages from the conference was the idea that protest movements are increasingly focused on their own media representation. Tetyana Bohdanova, a Global Voices author from Ukraine, explained that Euromaidan protesters watched media reactions to their movement with increasing dismay, as credulous journalists adopted simplistic narratives. We tend to think of protesters as developing simple, sharp, propagandistic messages to motivate their followers. Instead, Bohdanova suggests that Euromaidan protesters were often in the odd position of fighting for subtlety and nuance, explaining the concept of “a revolution of dignity” to the press, who wanted to see the protest as a simple battle between Russia and the EU.

My colleague Sasha Costanza-Chock argues that making media is a fundamental part of making protest movements, and stories from the Citizen Media Summit seem to support that contention. From Ukraine to Gaza, activists are tweeting in English to try and influence portrayals of their movements. Understanding social media as a channel for mobilization – the most common narrative about technology and protest – gives us only a partial picture. For activists and protesters, media is at least as important once people are in the streets, to report what’s happened, to document abuses and to represent the movement to the world.

Crisis response is a driver for social media use

The Philippines is hit by an average of twenty typhoons a year, including massive storms like Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6300 people. Isolde Amante and other Filipino colleagues explained that citizen media has become a primary source of information in these crises, that newspapers are far more likely to hear about these events via social media than via radio or other broadcast channels.

There have been lots of stories celebrating the power of social media to assist with crisis response – how Ushahidi was used to assist recovery efforts in Port au Prince after the Haitian earthquake, for instance. But these accounts usually describe social media contributions as an epiphenomenon. Conversations in the Philippines suggest that we might expect social media to take a lead role in breaking the news of disasters and, possibly, in coordinating responses.

Social Media is about taking sides

That phrase comes from Phil Howard’s forthcoming book “Pax Technica”, and it struck me as helpful in processing the conversations we had at Global Voices. We’ve always considered Global Voices to be a journalistic project – we’ve asked our authors to cover conversations taking place in their national online spheres in a way that’s balanced and fair, even if we reject classical notions of journalistic objectivity. But it’s also clear that many of the folks involved with Global Voices are passionate advocates for various causes: for freedom of speech online, for their nation to be represented differently in international media, for political causes.

Increasingly, I feel like Global Voices is a platform for “advocacy journalism” in the best sense of the term: much of it advocates for change in the world and features the people fighting to make those changes. And Phil’s description of social media as being about taking sides seems right to me. Those sides aren’t explicitly political – people using social media for hurricane relief are taking sides against a natural disaster and for the benefit of the victims. But the line between asking for friends and followers to pay attention to you and trying to harness that attention for change is a blurry one, and much of what works in social media presumes a position of advocacy.

For me, Global Voices summits are always a joyful time, a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. This one was also wonderful food for thought, and I can’t wait to continue these conversations with the community over the next two years until we see each other in person again.

This post was originally published on Ethan Z's blog. 

Ethan Zuckerman co-founded Global Voices in 2004, while he was a Berkman fellow at Harvard University. He currently directs the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and teach at MIT’s Media Lab. In 2013 Ethan's first book “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection” was published. 

by Ethan Zuckerman at January 30, 2015 11:54 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Marshall Wallace: "How to Opt Out of Conflict"

This live blog of Marshall Wallace's talk on January 29, 2015 was created by Gordon Mangum, Ali Hashmi, Ed Platt, Dalia Othman, and Yu Wang, with Willow Brugh on edits and visualization.


Marshall Wallace specializes in studying the unintended consequences of peacebuilding processes. His book “Opting Out of War: Strategies to Prevent Violent Conflict” focuses on conflict prevention work and challenges myths and prevailing ideas about conflict prevention. It is in part based on his previous time as the Director of the Do No Harm Project.


Marshall Wallace opened his talk by asking “What if we gave a war and nobody came?” This may seem like a rhetorical question but actually happens all the time, and not just in pacifist communities. The communities who opt out are not immune to consequences of conflict, but they opt not to participate. Wallace and his team studied 13 communities that managed to stay out of conflicts. Tuzla in Bosnia is one example. Amongst other actions, as a symbolic response to its ongoing siege, the community in Tuzla rebuilt an orthodox church that had been bombed, even setting up lights to work on the reconstruction through night.


Marshall handed out an “Opting Out of War” framework that focuses on six patterns that define conflict options. These characteristics are visible everywhere, including in the US, not just in conflict zones:

1. Having Options: “Make an affirmative choice to opt out of war.” It’s important for communities to understand they don’t have to participate in the violence everyone else in engaged in. People who didn’t participate in violence often said “we had a choice,” whereas people who got swept up in conflict often said “we didn’t have a choice.” When people feel that they do have a choice a rapid process can emerge around how to avoid participating.

2. Identity: “Select a familiar and normal non-war common identity.” People can often find a relevant non-war identity. This can involve finding a time in their history when there were identities focused on peace. An example might be the idea that “Our ancestors were such good warriors that we don’t have to fight” or “We were always led by a Muslim, Serb and Croat in the past and should be now.” There are towns in Mozambique that identify as being founded by soldiers who chose to stop fighting and live together. When communities can find moments in history that justify non-participation it often works.

3. Opportunity: ”Maintain existing public services and economic activities.” Conflict destroys economic opportunities and structure and makes people concerned about their future. Communities often feel that “we didn’t want to give up the gains of the last 20 years by participating in conflict,” so they find a way to maintain existing services. As a case example Marshall cited a community in Afghanistan that actually expanded the reach of it’s power grid during that country’s prolonged conflict.

4. Dispute Resolution: ”Maintain internal order.” This is a key factor in dispute resolution. Marshall noted that communities generally put a lot of time and energy into dispute resolution processes. The question for organizations trying to intervene or for the community as a whole when confronted with the possibility of violence becomes “what is there already for dispute resolution and how do we make use of it to avoid conflict?” Using traditional mechanisms like trusted, respected mediators, maintains internal order.

5. Security: ”Maintain security and engage with armed groups.” Sometimes it can be extremely effective for a community to engage in dialog with fighters. Marshall cited examples of groups that made a case to fighters that the community should exist and their boundaries should be respected, such as some communities in the Philippines. The question of why armed groups abide by these agreements is difficult to answer. In interviews with actual fighters Marshall and his team found sentiments similar to “we could have gone in if we wanted to, but it didn’t make strategic sense.” These interviews centered on implicit codes of conduct which are not written but assumed to be existent.

6. Fun: ”Enjoy each other, celebrate, boost morale.” Marshall observed that fun is the best way to create social cohesion. “You’ve got to have fun with each other,” he said. As an example, in Tuzla a composer wrote new patriotic songs, extolling the virtue of neither side in the war, but of the community and all people. Community organizing and events as fundamental as eating together play a role in finding ways to have fun and engage peacefully with each other.

Wallace noted that a “thriving” community is doing all six of these things, and gave examples of communities which managed to avoid conflict by employing one of the six “opting out of war” options.

Applied Locally: Somerville

Wallace has been a resident of Somerville, MA for 30 years and said that it used to have a high crime rate, including frequent biker gang fights near bars. But the current Mayor is very open to new ideas and vigorous in creating feedback mechanisms. He emphasizes shared identity in a town situated between major universities and home to students and immigrants. An example of a shared social cause has been an anti-obesity campaign which has drawn national attention, including being cited by Michelle Obama. When there is a dispute, such as around future plans for Lexington Park, there was sometimes a split between residents who considered themselves part of “old’ Somerville versus residents who felt they were part of a “new” Somerville. This divide was so deep that “someone got killed” as a result of the “old” and “new” conflict. In the instance of the dispute over Lexington Park the Alderman (who was a founder of “Save Our Somerville”) and Mayor worked together to help resolve the conflict. This was an example of “maintaining internal order” while also finding commonality instead of difference in identity.

As a local example of engaging with groups Wallace cited the change in the longstanding gang problem. A new police chief went to high schools and identified the gang tables, then sat down and talked to the members. He offered an exchange: if they refrained from violence the police wouldn’t harass them. In a relatively short period of time gang related murders all but disappeared.

An example of creating fun can be seen in the city sponsored “summer streets” events. The city also encourages civil society groups to create community events. The city also recognizes the value of creating places where people can get together. Artisan’s Asylum recently promoted a snowman building event and snowball fight in Union Square. These are various examples of how Somerville might be seen as a thriving community using the above criteria.


Q: Informal agreements to maintain peace are quite common in Eastern countries. Are there historical examples where Western communities have declined to participate in conflict?
Wallace: Yes, some communities in Mississippi decided not to participate in the civil war and abolished slavery to maintain peace with the Union for example.

Q: What happens to these communities when the war ends?
Wallace: During the course of the fighting they didn’t want outside help because that changes the dynamic. The community often feels that if they receive outside resources it will change the fighter’s calculations and potentially make them a target for violence. The downside for communities that do manage to avoid conflict is that they are often neglected after the war because they sustained less damage, so they get less resources. These communities would appreciate more aid, and shouldn’t we be rewarding the communities that are doing something right and managed to avoid the conflict?

Q: Why do some communities opt into violence and some opt out? What’s the tipping point?
Wallace: Opting out seems to be more possible when some communities are able to think about the oncoming violence much sooner than other communities. When people are caught by surprise by violence they are less likely to be able to opt out.

Q: Do communities gain appeal as a magnet for people interested in opting out of violence?

Wallace: It varies. In Tuzla, the mayor received international recognition, but was a member of a less popular political party in Bosnia, so had very little national influence.


Two frameworks

Communities have dividers and connectors. Interventions will always support either dividers or connectors. People who a good job at intervention look for changes in dividers/connectors over time, and look for ways to influence those changes. They then observe, re-evaluate, and iterate. He lists five potential patterns for providing resources. For example, aid criteria can favor one group and increase local tension. Losers of a conflict, for example, typically get more aid because they have greater need, which can lead to further conflict.

“Are the dividers or connectors getting worse or better?” Communities examine their context using this question and reassess their strategies accordingly. The losers of the conflict have more needs. Peace is a continuum, and it’s important to understand needs of all parties in the conflict.

Wallace said that putting resources into one community can increases tensions with other groups. Because losers usually get more resources this can actually lead to tensions and outbreaks of additional violence. This happens even post-conflict. When things are getting worse we need to examine the dynamic and consider how to rebalance it. For example, if the distribution effect is causing tension we should provide resources to both sides. But we can’t assume the needs are the same on both sides and that we should just give the same things to each side.

Challenges of logging change and communicating knowledge

Wallace said that one of the biggest challenges is doing context analysis over a period of time. Too often, it’s done at the beginning of a project, and then not looked at until after the project. Or, different people will do an analysis and not share it with each other. If it isn’t done on an ongoing and shared basis one can’t effectively compare the before and after situation and judge the effects of the program.

We don’t share our successes or communicate them (even to officemates sometimes!) Yet the internet exists in part to solve communication and data visualization challenges. In this case, what would Do No Harm look like as software? Wallace demonstrated software he has been working on called “Landscape.” It allows teams to set up dividers and connectors and rate them periodically as getting better or worse. By tracking this over time you can see changes that are aggregated across a team while also seeing individual ratings if you so choose. When we see change over time we start to problem solve around it. Marshall also said it would allow people who are far away (like funders) to get both a wide and very granular view of how things are going and whether they are getting better or worse.

“Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” CS Lewis

Questions Pt. 2

Q: I’m reminded of Stuart Kaufman’s work. When you have an example, for example in Karachi, when a conflict is forming, what is the starting point?
Wallace: Ask what are the major dividers or major grievances? Also look for connectors. Where do the groups come together? In physical spaces? Through Industries? Places where women from both groups gather? Find these and try to expand their influence. Even a small shared cultural thing like street theater can be used to show people ways to come together.

Groups have to be the “right” size for conflict to break out. If one group is too big or too small it is much less likely. This has been modelled by Yaneer Bar-Yam at the New England Complex Systems Institute. You can either merge groups or reinforce border as possible solutions.

Q: What is a connector?
Marshall: Here are some examples: Shared religion. The role of women in peacebuilding. Groups who worked together pre-war. Some are strong, some are weak, but they can all be used to help peacebuilding efforts.

by gordonm at January 30, 2015 09:19 PM

Creative Commons
Creative Commons DIY Salon: February 13th in San Francisco

DIY Salon_with CC

Join us in San Francisco at Park Life Gallery on 13 February 2015 for a Creative Commons DIY Salon. This salon features local artists who celebrate inexperience, sharing culture, and self-taught expertise in projects ranging from publishing and printmaking, to web-based collaborative music communities, to building open source libraries and visualizations.

This event also celebrates the San Francisco launch of I Can Do Anything Badly 2: Learning By Doing is a Shared Responsibility, a Creative Commons licensed artist’s book by Hoël Duret & The Big Conversation Space, designed by Frédéric Teschner, which features conversational interviews in English and French about DIY culture – from computer programming and independent publishing, to Wikipedia and furniture design.

Talks will be interspersed with ambient music performances from musicians from the Disquiet Junto.

Event Details:

Friday February 13th
5:00 – 8:00 PM
Park Life Gallery
3049 22nd Street
San Francisco, CA

Facebook event page.

by Matt Lee at January 30, 2015 06:17 PM

Fifteen Seconds of Fame: Free Music Archive Launches microSong Challenge

On January 26th, 2015, the Free Music Archive put out a call for entries for their ‘microSong Challenge.’ The first of three consecutive contests the Free Music Archive will run through spring of 2015, the microSong Challenge requires participants to pack a whole song into 15 seconds or less – the maximum length for most video-sharing app platforms (some are even shorter).

The Free Music Archive is a repository for curated tracks (currently almost 80,000) that are licensed under Creative Commons, Public Domain and FMA-only licenses that allow for the tracks to be streamed, downloaded and shared for free. Some content may be used in videos or remixes, depending on how it’s licensed.

From January 26th until February 20th, 2015, any registered FMA user can submit their miniscule composition(s) to the Free Music Archive. It’s free to sign up for an FMA account, and anyone 13 or older can enter the running. There will be a link to the contest on the homepage.

After the last day of the contest, a panel of judges will determine the top three! Our judges include composer Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, and WFMU DJ Jim Price. They will judge entries based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the time limit, and general musical appeal. The first prize winner
will receive a 3-D printer and runners-up will get prizes from Creative Commons and the Free Music Archive’s BFF radio station, WFMU.

Each microSong must be submitted in MP3 format. Every microSong will be licensed under a Creative Commons Zero license so that it can be freely used by anyone in a video, remix, extraordinarily brief performance art piece, miniature karaoke competition, or anything else they can come up with.

For more information about the microSong Challenge, email or visit

by Matt Lee at January 30, 2015 06:13 PM

Lawrence Lessig
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred…"

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at January 30, 2015 02:36 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Iranian Women's Rights Advocate Mahdieh Golroo Released From Jail
Mahdieh Golroo. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Mahdieh Golroo. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Mahdieh Golroo, an Iranian women's rights activist, was released on a bail of 700 million Toman (about $200,000) on January 27. Golroo spent 93 days in prison, following her arrest in front of the Iranian parliament, where she protested the acid attacks against women in Isfahan. She spent 45 days in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, known for its detainment and torture of political prisoners.

Last October, a wave of acid attacks against women in Isfahan created a public uproar in Iran. Authorities claimed there were four attacks, but social media users counted more than twice as many. When police failed to respond, protests and social media campaigns against government inaction swept the nation. 

Golroo appeared on a list of jailed media workers and activists published by Global Voices Advocacy earlier this month. Iranian Internet users have stressed the hypocrisy of jailing an activist who merely protested against an incident the government itself has condemned. 

Gissou Nia, the deputy director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, explained in a statement to Global Voices the significance of Golroo's arrest, saying her prosecution is part of a broader effort by the authorities to curtail women's presence in the public sphere. 

While it is a welcome development that Mahdieh Golrou is currently out on bail, her legal process is far from over and her prosecution is part of a broader plan perpetrated by Iranian officials to silence women’s voices. Despite vigorous denials from Iranian officials that the acid attacks that Golrou was protesting prior to her arrest were anything but the work of a rogue criminal, these attacks did not take place in a vacuum. Rather, these violent acts came in the midst of systematic policies, rhetoric and legislation from Iranian officials aimed at curtailing women’s participation in the public space. Golrou’s arrest and the arrests just last week of other women activists who dared to question these developments are simply an effort by Iranian officials to suppress those who are unafraid to openly challenge this anti-women trend.

by Mahsa Alimardani at January 30, 2015 12:43 PM

Global Voices
Iranian Women's Rights Advocate Mahdieh Golroo Released From Jail
Mahdieh Golroo. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Mahdieh Golroo. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Mahdieh Golroo, an Iranian women's rights activist, was released on a bail of 700 million Toman (about $200,000) on January 27. Golroo spent 93 days in prison, following her arrest in front of the Iranian parliament, where she protested the acid attacks against women in Isfahan. She spent 45 days in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, known for its detainment and torture of political prisoners.

Last October, a wave of acid attacks against women in Isfahan created a public uproar in Iran. Authorities claimed there were four attacks, but social media users counted more than twice as many. When police failed to respond, protests and social media campaigns against government inaction swept the nation. 

Golroo appeared on a list of jailed media workers and activists published by Global Voices Advocacy earlier this month. Iranian Internet users have stressed the hypocrisy of jailing an activist who merely protested against an incident the government itself has condemned. 

Gissou Nia, the deputy director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, explained in a statement to Global Voices the significance of Golroo's arrest, saying her prosecution is part of a broader effort by the authorities to curtail women's presence in the public sphere. 

While it is a welcome development that Mahdieh Golrou is currently out on bail, her legal process is far from over and her prosecution is part of a broader plan perpetrated by Iranian officials to silence women’s voices. Despite vigorous denials from Iranian officials that the acid attacks that Golrou was protesting prior to her arrest were anything but the work of a rogue criminal, these attacks did not take place in a vacuum. Rather, these violent acts came in the midst of systematic policies, rhetoric and legislation from Iranian officials aimed at curtailing women’s participation in the public space. Golrou’s arrest and the arrests just last week of other women activists who dared to question these developments are simply an effort by Iranian officials to suppress those who are unafraid to openly challenge this anti-women trend.

by Mahsa Alimardani at January 30, 2015 10:00 AM

January 29, 2015

MIT Center for Civic Media
Making Together with Jeff Sturges

Live notes taken at Jeff Sturges's Director's Fellow workshop on January 22, 2015.

Jeff Sturges
ML Director's fellow and Founder, Mount Elliott Makerspace @jeffsturges

Jeff has many years making and participating and makerspaces. He's had both successes and failures he'd like to share with us. He sees makerspaces as a big category that includes things like fab labs, grant-funded community spaces, member-run hackerspaces, and commercial/hierarchical groups like TechShop.

When Jeff first started, he tried to do it alone to keep things cheap. He blames his gray hairs on this and suggests working with others. He admires the model used by Maker Works in Ann Arbor, MI. He wishes he'd gone to something like the makerspace bootcamp they offer before he had started.

In Jeff's experience, the process of starting a makerspace is not linear or circular. He describes it as a spiral, starting with vision, mission, and experience. The most important thing he's learned is to have an idea of where you want to be years down the line, defined by the "burning souls" who are going to make it happen. Diversity and complimentary personalities are really helpful on these teams. Bringing too many cooks into the kitchen before the vision is defined can alienate people. It's important to identify contributes who are willing to follow through on their ideas.

Jeff wants to share some of his experiences. At NYC Resistor, a couple people decided to create a hackerspace, and gather 10 people to do it. They started by holding workshops to identify people who would be a good core group. Each of them invited another person.

Comment: When people recruit their friends, it's easy to reproduce disparities, but curating early members can also be a great time to consciously reach out to a more diverse group at an early stage.

Question: Do you ever hit a point where some people have to "get off the bus"?

Jeff was one of the leaders of Omnicorp Detroit. He didn't really know the details of how NYC Resistor started.

Question: Why Detroit?

He'd gone to school in Detroit, and appreciated the challenges there.

Jeff cautions against taking consulting roles for projects that only have funding because someone needs to be passionate and drive the project.

At first, OCD didn't want a mission statement. But eventually, people began to disagree about whether the space was about "sharing and learning" or gathering "cool" people. They had to be more explicit about refining their mission statement, which did leave to some people becoming less involved.

Question: It's easy to imagine a little planning could solve your problems ahead of time. Would planning a vision at the beginning have saved work?

Jeff says it would be the same amount of work, quotes Outkast: "You can plan a pretty picnic but you can't predict the weather."

Jeff advises against focusing on the tools in the beginning. WIthout people, tools gather dust. People feed into projects into space and tools. If you buy tools people will actually use, they can very quickly pay for themselves. He recommends figuring out governance and standard operating procedures as you choose and acquire tools.

Comment: SOPs are permission to use the tools. They tell you when and how you're allowed.

Maker Works has SOPs for all of their tools. After your initial training, you're expected to read the SOP as a first step.

Question: Do makerspaces ever behave as accelerators for companies?

Jeff: Yes. Calls makerspaces accidental business incubators. He describes the formation of a company as play to serious play to business formation. Some spaces focus on different parts of this process.

Question: Are there any differences in how to start spaces for people who are already makers and spaces that are educational and youth-focused?

Jeff: It should make a difference. He started without taking a co-design approach, but by asking people for feedback on his idea. He didn't get enough constructive criticism, and suggests co-design helps drive things in the right direction.

Ed Baafi: Member-driven spaces can be funded by dues and classes, but educational spaces are more often run on grant money. It comes back to vision.

Will: If you work with kids and education, the people you reach out to will be different. Maybe teachers rather than makers.

Jeff: If you have paid positions to teach kids, that's part of the vision. The LA makerspace is a good example of a space that is funded by adult members but also has a youth education role. If people come to make as a hobby, asking them to lead workshops as an educator is a big ask.

Question: Do you consider yourself an educator?

Jeff: Yes, but it can be difficult to balance teaching and learning with the administrative tasks associated with running a space.

Question: We can create a space without any technology, but tools can bring value. What kind of tools are missing?

Will: Wire strippers that are sized for kids.

Jeff: Jumper cables that kids can use.

Ed Baafi.: Software tools for CAD.

Jeff: Usually the need was for people rather than tools.

by elplatt at January 29, 2015 07:11 PM

Creative Commons
Finnish translation of CC0 published

Congratulations to the CC Finland team for the Finnish translation of CC0!

If it seems like you just saw them featured here, you’re not mistaken; they published the first official translation of the 4.0 suite just a few months ago, and now they are the first to have the complete set of CC legal tools available in their language.

CC0 Finnish header screenshot

Our thanks and congratulations again to the team of Maria Rehbinder of Aalto University, legal counsel and license translation coordinator of CC Finland; Martin von Willebrand, Attorney-at-Law and Partner, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: for translation supervision; Tarmo Toikkanen, Aalto University, general coordinator of CC Finland; Henri Tanskanen, Associate, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: main translator, and Liisa Laakso-Tammisto, translator, with thanks to Aalto University, HH Partners, and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture for their support.

Update: CC Finland’s announcement (in Finnish).

by Kat Walsh at January 29, 2015 05:35 PM

Global Voices
Our Voices: Juan Tadeo in México
Our Contributor in México, Juan Tadeo.

Our Contributor in México, Juan Tadeo.

Born in Mexico City in the 1980s, Juan Tadeo graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) in 2009 with a law degree. On his blog, launched in August 2009, Juan exercises his right to freedom of expression, writing about topics ranging from justice, politics, and transparency to music and football.

A contributor to Global Voices since 2011, Juan's recent reporting has focused on the missing students from Ayotzinapa.

Global Voices (GV): How did you get involved with Global Voices?

Juan Tadeo (JT): It was almost four years ago, in early 2011, when I came looking for the former regional editor, Silvia Viñas. I learned a lot from her.

I learned about the existence of Global Voices few months before that, because one of the authors at the time cited my blog in a story about the violence, racism, and discrimination that exists at Mexico’s northern border, that is, the border with the United States. I was pleased to be quoted, and I was thrilled to see a fragment of my post translated into several languages within a few weeks.

GV: What do you like most about volunteering for GV?

JT: I find it fascinating to have the opportunity to collaborate with a platform that brings local stories to all corners of the world. At Global Voices, people can read about my country’s events in their own language (English, French, Italian, Esperanto, and many others). However, I like to create content in Spanish before it is translated. I do it because, in my opinion, it's not easy to find places outside the mainstream media that are impartial, reliable, and regularly updated, written in Spanish.

GV: What is the story that has impressed you the most and why?

JT: All stories of unpunished violence afflicting Mexico offend, move, and sadden me. Every time I write about missing people, or about the discovery of secret graves, or some other dire issue, I feel that [Mexico] slips further from the peace and justice that characterize much of the rest of the world. The history of the Cadereyta massacre and the grim facts of Ayotzinapa are particularly strong examples of this phenomenon.

Other stories of a completely different nature have also be hard for me, like writing in September 2014 about the death of Gustavo Cerati, a talented musician whom I admired for many years.

GV: What have you learned about citizen journalism?

JT: It's helped me to be more critical of mainstream journalism—to notice when such work is done poorly and to understand why.

In Mexico, this issue is particularly salient because the companies controlling the media offer the public a particularly shoddy product, evidently in order to favor the powerful, whom they ultimately represent.

Consequently, I have learned that many times (not always, unfortunately) the work done by citizen media is special and extremely valuable, even though most people, at least in Mexico, are yet to appreciate it.

GV: What should traditional media do in this new era of mass citizen participation and online social networks?

JT: I think they should pay attention to individuals who have become aware and demand quality and topical content. Some global media have begun to do so because they know the number of people demanding respect for their rights as viewers and consumers is increasing at a slow but steady pace.

In my country, that pace is slower than in most. A large section of the population is happy with the media's status quo, where the “news” focus is on rumors in the entertainment world, and broadcasting favors vulgar comedies and unsuccessful American films from the 1990s—a formula that has worked quite well for the big networks. There is a gradually growing number of people who turn off the TV, however. When consuming news, they check various sources—both local and global—before making their own judgments. It's these people who satisfy their thirst for information by turning to the interesting, alternative voices found in citizen journalism.

by Diana Navarrete at January 29, 2015 04:12 PM

DML Central
Learning Pathways: Descriptive or Prescriptive?
Learning Pathways: Descriptive or Prescriptive? Blog Image

A few months ago, in a post entitled Scaffolding Web Literacy Through Learning Pathways, I differentiated between training pathways ("a series of steps that lead to the individual being able to reproduce knowledge or action") and learning pathways ("experiences lead[ing] to the re-shaping of... future behaviour").


In this post, I want to dive deeper into learning pathways, dividing these types of pathways into broadly two groups. There are those kinds of pathways that are descriptive and those that are prescriptive. Neither of these labels is pejorative, as each could be appropriate given a particular context. This way of looking at learning pathways has often come up in conversations around Open Badges:

Descriptive pathways approaches seek to acknowledge the ways that people willfully choose to earn badges. This technique may feel more natural to the badge earner since they’re defining their own paths. In this manner, the badge earner makes use of personal agency. Prescriptive approaches seek to declare one standard or recommended badge earning path over another. It can feel more limiting and formal. The badge earner is compelled to follow the proposed pathway or drop out of the pathway. Each approach has its own pluses and minuses. (Carla Casilli)

Given the "pluses and minuses" of each, it's worth exploring how a combination of these approaches could work in practice. After all, prescriptive pathways tend to score higher on traditional conceptions of 'rigour' (more on that here) while descriptive pathways provide opportunities for interest-based, just-in-time learning. One reason I was drawn to the badges work while still working in formal education was that it allows for prescriptive pathways to be augmented with evidence from descriptive pathways. These descriptive pathways could have already have taken place, be currently in progress, or constitute what Rafi Santo calls 'desire paths' — to be explored in the future. This is closely linked to 'interest powered' part of the Connected Learning principles.


As human beings we are constantly re-evaluating our place in the world. This involves making sense of our relationships to each other, to things, and to places — but also to past versions of ourselves. What's the story I can tell others about how I got from the 16-year-old version of me standing before you? Prescriptive pathways can help with this in terms of bona fides but descriptive pathways, particularly if they contain "milestone markers" are also useful. They provide qualitative data to help round out and make sense of the quantitative data emitted by formal credentials. 

Sense-making often occurs after an experience: that doesn’t render the process any less meaningful, even if that process has seemed peculiarly arbitrary and idiosyncratic. (Carla Casilli) 

Combining both prescriptive and descriptive pathways allows, I would suggest, for a number of benefits that may not be immediately apparent:

● Improved learner motivation — if learners can choose pathways that make sense to them, then they are likely to be more motivated to continue learning.

● More inclusive curricula — instead of learners being taken through a curriculum in lockstep, they can proceed at their own pace and delve deeper into particular interests.

● Increased flexibility — a more modular structure allows for different ways to achieve the same ends (which can be captured by badges, certificates, endorsements, recommendations, e-portfolios, etc.)


Learning pathways are a powerful way of thinking about the educational experiences we offer in both formal and informal settings. Combining both prescriptive and descriptive approaches can allow for external perceptions of 'rigour' while allowing for increased motivation, inclusivity and flexibility.

Karen Smith (University of Toronto / Hive Learning Networks) and I are currently writing a Mozilla whitepaper about learning pathways. We'd very much like to hear from those doing innovative work in blending prescriptive and descriptive pathways for the benefit of learners. Please do add any links to examples you have in the comments below!

Banner image credit: Jared Tarbell

by mcruz at January 29, 2015 04:00 PM

January 28, 2015

Creative Commons
New job at CC: Software developer

Today, we’re opening up a new job posting, for a developer. This person will work with our education team and existing technical lead to develop tools that facilitate the discovery, curation, use and re-use of freely available online content.

The job will involve leading an overhaul of CC’s Open Education Resources (OER) Policy Registry and combine it with other catalogs to create a one-stop, global Open Policy Registry hosted under the umbrella of the Open Policy Network.

From the job description:

Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization focused on enabling the open commons of knowledge to grow and flourish. Our work crosses multiple sectors of creativity and knowledge — from photography, to music, to open educational resources, copyright reform, and open data. Today the commons includes over 880 million CC-licensed works, and we expect to pass 1 billion works in 2015.

Are you excited about powering the technical infrastructure of Creative Commons? Learn more and apply.

by Matt Lee at January 28, 2015 10:18 PM

Global Voices
The Khabarovsk Airport Logo Is a Viral Sensation. It's Also a Flying Bear.
Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

A new logo designed for Khabarovsk Airport in Russia is creating a stir among the RuNet social media users. This might be because it features a flying bear.

Internet users discovered the new logo for Khabarovsk Airport (an international hub in the Russian Far East) by accident. While the airport's official website has no signs of redesign or logo updates, a few people spied the new logo in the sponsors row of a hockey championship website. Once you spotted it, it was hard to miss: the centerpiece of the logo is a white bear, soaring in the blue sky.

The official logo of the airport in Khabarovsk. Not a joke.

The RuNet reacted as it usually does—with Photoshop.

The bear is an iconic image for Russians, as the animal is often associated with the country itself. No wonder, then, that the variations on the new logo were endless.

"Watch out!"

“Watch out!”

Predictably, the first ‘shops’ of the logo included other stereotypical items often attributed to Russian culture, such as the ushanka winter hat, the balalaika, and, well, the vodka. 

The vodka theme seemed especially popular. 

"The Khabarovsk Duty Free."

“The Khabarovsk Duty Free.”

A few of the images played on athletic themes, suggesting a figure skating variation and a logo for the Khabarovsk circus. 

Khabarovsk Circus.

“Khabarovsk Circus.”

Of course, some meme classics were revisited as well. 


A variant in green below features a logo for the Makhachkala airport in Dagestan, with two bears dancing lezginka, a national dance. Russian ire for North Caucasians is often expressed in resentment for their public dances as crystallizations of their cultural differences and what Russians see as noisy public disturbances (somewhat ironic, as Russians are also quite fond of public singing and occasional dancing.)

Although mockery of the new logo was the prevailing tune on Russian social networks, some users actually found the new design appealing, so we're guessing it will probably bear the public relations fruit the airport had hoped for.

by Tetyana Lokot at January 28, 2015 09:31 PM

Jessica Valenti
"We are finally approaching a critical mass of interest in ending racism, misogyny and transphobia..."
“We are finally approaching a critical mass of interest in ending racism, misogyny and...

January 28, 2015 04:11 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: DRC Blocks Networks in Face of Violent Protests
Lubumbashi, the DRC's second-largest city. Photo by Oasisk via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.5)

Lubumbashi, the DRC's second-largest city. Photo by Oasisk via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.5)

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-in Lim and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where authorities ordered a full shutdown of mobile-phone and Internet service, in the face of violent anti-government protests. International telecommunications operators in the country told media that they received an official order to suspend service.

After a three-day outage, Internet access was partially restored, but SMS and mobile Internet services remained inaccessible as of January 28. 

Approximately 23 percent of DRC citizens use mobile phones, but Internet penetration rates in the DRC are difficult to measure countrywide. Sources familiar with the local media environment say radio remains the most widely used form of mass communication, with fixed-line telephone service and then SMS next in line. 

VPNs face off with China

This week, Chinese authorities disrupted users’ access to virtual private networks (VPNs), technologies that enable users in the country to mask their locations, to circumvent the Great Firewall. In China, VPNs such as VyprVPN are widely used in business and academia to access blocked sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, and have generally avoided censorship.

Microsoft coughs up private email data post-Charlie Hebdo

In a startling illustration of the speed with which user-data requests are now handled, Microsoft announced it turned over e-mail data requested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation after the Charlie Hebdo account within 45 minutes of the request. After European interior ministers issued a joint statement calling on Internet companies to remove preemptively “material that aims to incite hatred and terror,” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith stated, “Democratic societies, not private companies, need to decide on the balances to be struck between public values such as public safety and personal privacy.”

Hong Kong flirts with the Right to be Forgotten

Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam Wang expressed support for the Right to Be Forgotten, an EU policy that requires search engines to remove irrelevant or outdated information. Internet activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere criticized the policy, arguing it would become a “right to delete” that would limit freedom of information. As yet, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has not made any substantive movements on the issue.

Twitter leaker blocked in Turkey

For months, Twitter user @fuatavnifuat (whose identity is unknown) has been challenging Turkish government authorities by leaking data that officials have classified as “state secrets.” This week, Twitter withheld the user’s tweets in Turkey, following a court decision to block @fuatavnifuat’s social media accounts. A Facebook page listed on the court order also appears to be blocked. The judge who issued the court order warned both companies that their sites will be blocked entirely, if they fail to comply. Twitter, which posts all orders to the Chilling Effects censorship monitoring project, pledged to speed up compliance with Turkish court orders, after being blocked in the country last March.

Crimeans lose (some) Google products due to US sanctions

To comply with US sanctions on Crimea, Google is blocking access to some of its products in the region, including AdSense, AdWords, and Google Play. Crimean users, however, can still access free products, such as Gmail, Google Search, and Maps. 

Netizen Activism

Over the past year, the Netizen Report has chronicled the imprisonment of far too many bloggers, media workers, and online activists. The Global Voices community called for their immediate release in a statement released at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Cebu City, Philippines, this week:  

Like these individuals—many of whom are our friends and colleagues—we believe in the right and power of open expression to drive change, inspire cooperation, and resolve conflict… We cannot remain silent—and you should not either. We ask you to join us in demanding that all governments fulfill their duty under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: protect and respect the rights of these individuals.

New Research

Subscribe to the Netizen Report by email 

by Netizen Report Team at January 28, 2015 01:37 PM

Doc Searls
Blogging the #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC that wasn’t

The blizzard hit coastal New England, not New York City. In fact, it’s still hitting. Wish I was there, because I love snow. Here in New York City we got pffft: about eight inches in Central Park: an average winter snowstorm. No big deal.

I was set up with my GoPro to time-lapse accumulations on the balcony outside our front window. I had two other cameras ready to go, and multiple devices tuned in to streams of news stories, tweets and posts. Instead the story I got was an old and familiar one of misplaced sensationalism. Nothing happening, non-stop. At least here.

The real news was happening in Boston, Providence, Worcester, Montauk, Scituate, the Cape and Islands. But I didn’t have anything useful to add to what thousands of others were showing, posting, tweeting and blogging. Back during Sandy, I had a lot to blog because important stuff wasn’t being said on media major and minor. For example I predicted, correctly, that many radio and TV stations would be knocked off the air by flooding. I also thought, correctly, that New York was under-prepared for the storm.
Not so this time, for any of the places the storm has hit.

With the snow still falling over New England…

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.17.02 PM… there’s a good chance that it will break old records (and probably already has in some places). But the cable news system is a still a broken record: endless pronouncements by undersecretaries of the overstate.

As more cords get cut, and more of us inform each other directly, new and better forms of aggregation and intermediation will emerge. To some extent the major media are already adapting, showing videos, tweets and posts from the Long Tail. But I suspect that the next major shift will be to something different than anything we have now.

I suspect the biggest innovations will be around discovery — of each other. Who has the information I want, now? Who or what is being fully useful, rather than just noisy or repetitive? Search from Google and Bing, while good in many ways, seems hidebound and stale to me. Its personalization is mostly about guesswork that’s hard to figure or control, and is jiggered for advertising as well.

For example, right now I’d like to know more about the breached sea wall in Scituate. Here’s a Yahoo (Bing) search. Most of the top results are at, which says to me — before I even look at any of them — “Oh, is the Boston Globe, and I’ve already run out the five views it gives me on this browser before it thows up the paywall.” In fact there is no paywall for some of the local stories, but I’ve seen it so many times that I don’t want to go there. The second thing I notice is that they’re all old: from 2014 and 2013. When I look for the same thing at Google News, the top results are the paywalled Globe ones. So I search for Scituate on Twitter, which is more helpful, but not fine-grained enough. What if I want to read only people who live there and are reporting from there?

Try to think outside of the search and social media boxes for a minute. Think all the way outside the Web.

Just think Internet, which is nothing more than a way for anybody or anything to connect to anybody or anything. Let’s find a way to do discovery there. We have some crude beginnings with stuff like this. But we need something much more natural, distributed and outside the control of any company or government — as is the Internet, by nature.

Once we have that, all kinds of amazing stuff will start to open up.

by Doc Searls at January 28, 2015 01:43 AM

January 27, 2015

Doc Searls
Maybe wallets can’t be apps

Danese Cooper ‏(@DivaDanese) asks Czech_Wallet-300x225via tweet,

Wallet App (and 1-button pay) as “compelling demo” apparently works equally well 4 BitCoin as 4 PayPal. opinion?

Sounds cool, but I don’t know which wallet app she’s talking about. There are many. In my opinion, however, they all come up short because they aren’t really wallets. Meaning they’re not yours. They belong to the company that makes the app, and that company has its hand in your pocket.

As I explained here,

Nothing you carry is more personal than your wallet, or more essential for interacting with the marketplace. You can change your pants or your purse, but your wallet is a constant. And, while your wallet contains cards and currencies that are issued by companies and governments, your wallet is yours, not theirs. That’s why none of those entities brand your wallet as theirs, nor do you operate your wallet at their grace.

This distinction matters because wallets are becoming a Real Big Topic — partly because a lot of Real Big Companies like having their hands in our pockets, and partly because we really do need digital versions of the wallets we carry in the analog world…

Here’s the key, and my challenge…: they need to be driven by individuals like you and me, and not by Business as Usual, especially what Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and the rest would like to do with their hands in our pockets…

Here’s the thing: if your wallet has a brand, it’s not yours. If it’s for putting companies hands, and not just their instruments of convenience (such as cards, the boundaries of which are mostly clear), in your pockets, it’s not yours.

Let’s give the individual a way to drive here. Just like we did with the PC, the Net, email, web servers, blogging, podcasting, syndication and other instruments created with freedom rather than capture in mind.

Think of Dave Winer‘s “Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet,” and substitute “individual,” “customer” or “user” for Internet. (They are all the same thing, when you think about it. And Dave was the prime mover between the last three developments listed in the prior paragraph.)

Here are a couple other things I’ve written about wallets:

Those two pieces, and the one quoted above, are all three years old or more. So now I’m wondering if wallets — real wallets, of the personal kind — can be apps at all. Given that apps are basically silos, I’m wondering if wallets should be some other breed of software thing.

Maybe it’s time to think about wallets outside the app box.

by Doc Searls at January 27, 2015 11:17 PM

Doc Searls
Giant Snow Fail Link Sale

Somebody at The New Yorker calls office junk (the kind you save until you toss because you’re moving) “accretions of intention.” Same goes for open tabs. So here are my closed ones, accreted now on a blog rather than in my tabs or my brain:

Triangulation 186 | TWiT.TV Recorded yesterday. Good one.
  Why grudges don’t work

” title=”"

” target=”_blank”>"

   The address book we need today — Medium
   Olympic bid has Boston asking: ‘Huh? What inferiority complex?’ – Metro – The Boston Globe

” title=”\”

” target=”_blank”>”

   Ready for What’s Next? Envision a Future Where Your Personal Information Is Digital Currency | WIRED
“Long live the open Internet”: Cluetrain authors offer an updated guide to the Web | BetaBoston
   Cluetrain: The listicle.

by Doc Searls at January 27, 2015 10:25 PM

Global Voices
Trinidad & Tobago Journalist Marcia Henville's Murder Shocks the Nation
The late journalist and television personality, Marcia Henville. Photo by Mark Lyndersay, used with permission.

The late journalist and television personality, Marcia Henville. Photo by Mark Lyndersay, used with permission.

Trinidad and Tobago netizens woke up to the disconcerting news last Saturday morning that veteran journalist and television presenter Marcia Henville died in a fire at her home in east Trinidad. Speculation that there had been foul play took root early on, thanks to reports of “loud arguments [...] coming from her third floor apartment” shortly before an explosion that supposedly started the blaze.

Late yesterday, the autopsy results confirmed that Henville was murdered – the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds. As the nation transitioned from shock to anger, public attention has been focusing on the police investigation. The main person of interest appears to be Henville's husband, who escaped from the fire with first degree burns and is now warded at hospital. Some news reports said that her husband has insisted there were no domestic issues, while others claimed that the relationship was “difficult”.

On Facebook, many netizens expressed sadness over the violent way in which Henville died. They thought it particularly tragic considering that she dedicated much of her professional life to helping the downtrodden and disenfranchised, boldly venturing into “hotspot areas” rife with drugs and gang warfare in order to give voice to the voiceless. Point Blank, the social issues show Henville produced and presented on a local television station, was known for its relentless pursuit of justice for the downtrodden.

On Twitter, distressed netizens paid tribute to her life and work:

The CCN television network, which broadcasted Henville's show, tweeted this statement from the country's Prime Minister:

Twitter user Edward Charles agreed:

Others mourned the loss of a friend, colleague and journalist:

Even before the autopsy results were made public, some social media users wondered whether Henville's determination to highlight tough issues was somehow connected to her death:

Once it was confirmed that Henville was indeed murdered, the tone in the blogosphere began to change, particularly among people who knew Henville personally and for whom the murder hit close to home. On Facebook, Dion Boucaud said:

Although I suspected this, it does not dampen the shock. What hurts me the most is that someone like Marcia who puts themselves out there to fight for the less fortunate, puts others before themselves, deserves to die with a degree of dignity. Marcia was denied that opportunity. WE the country have been robbed of a selfless spirit who, although not born here, made this country her home and vigarously [sic] fought for the right of those less fortunate to be heard. She sought justice for all and to have her life end in this way was never how it should have been. I am beyond angered by this and my pain is magnified beyond the news that Saturday brought. I have no more words, only tears and hate.

Artist Darren Cheewah created this illustration in honour of Henville, based on an original photograph by Damian Luk Pat, which is being widely circulated on social media:
marcia free

A former colleague at Gayelle TV, a community television station that sought to highlight all things Trinbagonian – from art and culture to social ills – posted on Facebook that the station would be honouring Henville on air last night:

If you liked, loved, respected, knew, were close to…Marcia Henville – We welcome you.

Come to our studio…and share your story.

This sharing of memories of the inimitable Marcia Henville is what has been comforting her friends, fans and colleagues in their grief. As a film producer, Henville had been working on a film called Trafficked, about the drug trade in Trinidad and Tobago. She had a good working relationship with the film's writer and director, Sean Hodgkinson, starring as Meredith James in Hodgkinson's two previous films, A Story About Wendy, and its sequel. The cast and crew posted their condolences on the film's Facebook page:

Team Wendy is shocked and saddened by the devastating news of Marcia Henville's passing.

There are no words to describe the irreparable loss of one of our family members,

We wish to remember Marcia's kindness, empathy, talent, spunk, professionalism, enthusiasm and love.

She will forever be in our hearts.

Catherine Emmanuel, who acted opposite Henville in the Wendy films, remembered her for her natural acting ability and genuine interest in people. “She was such a strong woman,” Emmanuel said, “always concerned about others, colourful and lively. She was a great listener. Marcia didn't deserve to die like that; she cared too much about other people – whether you were black, white, rich, poor, it didn't matter to her. I'll miss her wonderful voice. I always thought she was a woman for everyone. She loved life, but more than that, she was life.”

Funeral arrangements for Marcia Henville are still to be announced.

by Flora Thomas at January 27, 2015 03:55 PM

A Website Fine Rekindles a Controversy About the Use of Personal Data in Perú
Screenshot taken from the site Datosperu when it was online.

Screenshot taken from the site Datosperu when it was online.

The website, which publishes information about people and businesses, was fined with S/.228,000.00 (approximately US $78,620.00) for breaking the law of personal data protection, or Law 29733, created in Perú in 2011. has different sources of information, most commonly public entities such as the Perú-based SUNAT, as well as legal regulations that are published daily at the official newspaper El Peruano. These sources generate income from the owners of the website through Google Adsense and other services.

The penalty was issued by the National Authority of Personal Information Protection (APDP) due to complaints against the site for publishing information that affects the applicants. The website has documents of sanctions of these two people, but not the documents that cancel those administrative acts which obviously cause trouble for these users.

One of the points of the specific penalty (Page 6) is that “the published resolution is still hosted on the website ‘'—according to the claims of Internet users—without previously making their personal data anonymous, which constitutes an infringement of the fundamental right to protection of personal data.”

On the website Iriarte y Asociados, laywer Cinthya Téllez analyzes:

How did obtain that information? Because first that was published in the newspaper El Peruano [...] and it is argued that this penalty is given to for using data without the owner´s agreement. The public information previously published in El Peruano does not constitute information about information publicly relevant or with general interest, because the claimants do not participate in public activities. So, there is no justification which affects privacy of the claiming citizens and the web site had to anonymize it.  

Although the APDP could not find the website responsible because the address does not belong to them and there is no corporate owner of, the business responded after the penalty was imposed and it argues, among other things, that in the sanction against them there is “abuse of power” from the State or a public employee. It also indicates that publishing public information is not a crime. Nevertheless, it will delete that information and probably close the site. This generated a debate about datosperu's refusal to address the complaints at the time, and the validity of some of the arguments made by the APDP in applying the fine.

The discussion about in the Peruvian blogosphere is not new; in March of 2012, some entities from civil society were alerted by the site's lack of transparency,  demanded to know from the APDP the name of the domain owner or those responsible for the site, because a list from an American official website stated that they were a “Peruvian government initiative to promote open data from public administration”, which was obviously wrong. It is worth mentioning that the claim had a negative response because it did not contain ”important data within the jurisdiction of the National Authority for the Protection of Personal Data”. 

Arturo Díaz commented in a personal way on his blog:

When I visited I got the unpleasant surprise of finding some of my personal information posted there without my permission. Not even on Facebook do I do I have to post my information in such a precise way and now a site with dubious origin has posted it as if I asked them to. With regard to this, it is insulting that when you intend to try to find those responsible for this page through Facebook, they give us a little “special window” to which if we agree, could well capture your username and password.

In 2012, the lawyer Miguel Morachimo gave some legals clarifications about the privacy of some published data. He thought that: 

At first, DatosPerú does not contain secret or prohibited information. In fact, It contains information with free access. It only has information which was already available in SUNAT as well as on some other websites of public institutions, that is to say, public information [...] Our Law of Personal Data Protection (.pdf) defines  personal data as any information that identifies a natural person or that it makes him identifiable, distinguishing from sensitive data as biometric data that can identify the owner. 

Additionally, the engineer Dámaso Fonseca talked this year in his blog about the anonymity of the site, through dissection and data tracking which could reveal those responsible. In the process, he found connections with Peruvian and Spanish sites that work or worked “publishing information related to personal data and obtaining profits from the visits of Google AdSense”, being that some of these Spanish sites were also sanctioned for various reasons.

As regards this last penalty, Miguel Morachimo wrote again about emphasizing if the APDP's resolution was really appropriate now, since the APDP determines that the legal standards reported in El Peruano can only be published after being anonymized.

Apart from multiple execution problems that tried to enforce a decision from a ghost company, it is problematic to orient it against publicity of normal standards. First, because there are many situations in which the violation of personal data information is unquestionable and it constitutes generalized practice in the market. But also because the criteria that says public information of the State can only be replicated when it is anonymous seems excessive from a point of view which values transparency and access to public information.  

In another article he comments, referring to, that “it is still disappointing that a project that promotes transparency is so little transparency regarding its administration,” concluding: 

both sides were fundamentalists. On one side, the two or three people who tried to defend the APDP decision caricatured the critical voices as insensitive to privacy and/or law of State. On the other side, Datos Perú and the administrators tried to make this into a personal fight between the State and them being a sort of transparency example.

Finally, we talked with Casas, Director of Suma Ciudadana, an organization that in 2012 claimed to know the names of the administrators, and he said this: did nothing wrong, but because there is a law about personal data (with its pros and cons), that is why at Suma Ciudadana we were worried that because of the anonymity of this site and having nothing that links it back to Peru beyond the origin of the published data, the right to informative auto-determination could be damaged without any chance of claiming. It is important to remember that when we went to the Authority who protects the personal information to examine this case, it was impossible to talk to the administrator to complain damaging personal information. After we made our complaint public, the administrator included a complaint space, but it did not work out. We were surprised at the authority position against, since they initially refused to address the problem and then it was discussed, although we are in disagreement about the weighting of rights from his decision. 

The site is no longer providing access to data and instead, it shows a farewell message.

Post publicado originalmente en el blog Globalizado.

by Marina Errecart at January 27, 2015 03:47 PM

Doc Searls
Blogging #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC 02

11:31pm — Nobody is saying it, but so far the #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC is a dud. I mean, yeah there’s snow. But it’s not a real blizzard yet. At least not here, and not in Boston, where it’s supposed to be far worse. “A little bit more than a dusting” says the CNN reporter on the street in Boston, sweeping a thin layer of snow off some pavement. The anchor on the street in New York stands in front of a bare wet sidewalks while the street behind is covered with a couple inches of slush.

Apparently the only vehicle on the streets is CNN’s Blizzardmobile:


(Why is it that my mind drops the B and calls that thing LIZZARDMOBILE?)

Meanwhile, WNYC‘s listeners are weighing in with snow totals that look a lot deeper…

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.42.16 PM…than what I’m seeing out my window:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.49.00 PM

But the wind is getting stronger now. Maybe this thing will be as big as they’ve been predicting. But I’m not seeing it yet.

And I do want to see it, because I love snow. A sampling:

Plus everythjing else I’ve tagged “snow.”

Enjoy. I’ll check back in the morning. I should be putting up fresh photos then.


by Doc Searls at January 27, 2015 05:25 AM

Global Voices
Citizens Refuse to See India's Garden City Reduced to Waste
A truck dumps solid waste at Okhla Landfill in New Delhi, India. Photo by Anil kumar Shakya. Copyright Demotix (5/6/2014)

A truck dumps solid waste at Okhla Landfill in New Delhi, India. Photo by Anil kumar Shakya. Copyright Demotix (5/6/2014)

The Garden City of India, Bangalore, is experiencing a trash management crisis vivid enough to warrant a “Trash Trail” tour of the city. The city generates about 4000 tons of waste per day, all of which is landfill bound, since most of the waste sent to garbage processing centers is unsegregated

The BBMP (Bangalore's municipal corporation) has dealt with the problem by transporting and dumping waste outside the city. However, villages near the landfills suffer when waste is deposited, with water, air and soil quality compromised by toxins in the trash. The problem reached a head last year with Mandur, a once verdant village blocking trucks carrying trash and demanding closure of a nearby dump.

Screenshot from the 2bin1bag Facebook page

Screenshot from the 2bin1bag Facebook page

One solution to the problem is to segregate waste at source so that appropriate portions may be transported for composting, recycling and landfill. To this end, a citizens advocacy group has started a an initiative called 2Bin1Bag, where households are educated on waste segregation at source.

As per Bellandur Buzz:

All it requires is two different colored bins- a red one for reject waste and a green one for compostable waste, and reusable plastic bag for recyclable waste.

A short video explains the concept:

A group of students in collaboration with Fields of View, a game design company, created a board game to discuss and understand the intricacies of waste management.

The waste management problem in Bangalore is large and hairy, but with citizens acting to deal with the problem, it may be solved before long.

by Tejasvini Prasad at January 27, 2015 02:59 AM

Doc Searls
Blogging #BlizzardOf2015 in #NYC 01

7:56pm — Since I’m a #weather and #journalism freak hunkered down in #NYC, I’m digging the opportunity to blog the juncture of all three #s as the #BlizzardOf2015 bears down on the Northeast Coast.

So here’s the first interesting thing. While the coverage is all breathless with portent…

cnn on the storm

weather channel on the storm… the generally reliable Intellicast app tells me this:


In other words, 1) No snow now, where I am in Manhattan (under the green dot); 2) Less than half an inch more by 12:30am tomorrow; and 3) One to three inches after that. This is on top of a whopping 1 inch or so already there.

But then there is this:

In other words, kinda like CNN and are saying.

So: we’ll see. I’ll get back after we watch a movie.

by Doc Searls at January 27, 2015 01:16 AM

January 26, 2015

DML Central
Let’s Ban Bans in The Classroom
Let’s Ban Bans in The Classroom Blog Image

It’s starting to seem like there is a new ritual being performed at the beginning of each new semester: debating the use of technology in the classroom. In these debates, “technology” almost never means all human-made tools — I’ve yet to read an earnest blog post calling for a ban on pencils in the classroom — but rather portable electronics, most notably the laptop.

Perhaps the most prominent voice calling for a ban on laptops is that of Clay Shirky, a new media scholar. Last fall, he posted an article to Medium explaining why he forbids portable electronics in his courses. Shirky’s post gained a lot of attention, perhaps because he is best known for his books about Internet culture and the collective benefits of social media. This was not a hoary old professor telling kids to take their newfangled devices and get off of his lawn, but rather a prominent voice in the technology community rejecting the devices that enable the culture he studies.

In the piece, Shirky describes how he slowly changed his mind about the use of laptops, tablets, and phones in class, a change that was fueled by research into the detrimental effects of multitasking and computer use in the classroom. The crucial turn for Shirky was this study that argues, as the title says, “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers.”

Shirky doesn’t respond in any depth to the reasons why laptops should be allowed in the classroom. (I don’t fault him for it, necessarily; his wasn’t a position piece as much as it was a conversion story explaining why he, new media scholar Clay Shirky, became convinced that laptops are bad for learning.)

The arguments for laptops fall in roughly two camps: the first, articulated here by Steven Krause, might be called the “live and let live” approach. Students didn’t start being distracted in class with the introduction of laptops, so instructors are better off addressing the root problem: making their courses engaging and interesting. The second defense is student-centered, arguing that professors need to accommodate a diversity of learning styles in their classrooms. Some students must have laptops to assist them in their learning, and a general ban on these and other devices (with exceptions for students who need them) would draw unwanted attention to these students.

These defenses are both compelling in their own right, but then so is that research on multitasking and distraction Shirky cites. As he puts it,

Anyone distracted in class doesn’t just lose out on the content of the discussion, they create a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers. In an environment like this, students need support for the better angels of their nature (or at least the more intellectual angels), and they need defenses against the powerful short-term incentives to put off complex, frustrating tasks. That support and those defenses don’t just happen, and they are not limited to the individual’s choices. They are provided by social structure, and that structure is disproportionately provided by the professor, especially during the first weeks of class.

As Nathaniel Rivers points out, Shirky almost completely ignores pedagogy in this article. While this paragraph addresses learning and course structure, he doesn’t address or attempt to justify the learning modes that banning laptops is meant to protect.

The assumption of his argument is that the classroom is a place where mostly lectures (and some discussions) happen. I do not doubt that portable electronics provide unique challenges to lecturing; but is this narrow definition of the classroom — a place where an instructor delivers knowledge to students who must pay attention — one we should be defending from these increasingly ubiquitous technologies?

For example, in that article on multitasking that Shirky credits with convincing him to ban laptops, the authors describe two experiments. In the first, they had students listen to a 45-minute PowerPoint assisted lecture while taking notes on a laptop. Twenty students would simply take notes, while twenty more were also given other tasks to complete during the lecture when they could. Afterward, the two groups were tested on what they learned. In the study, the twenty students who were not assigned the additional tasks scored eleven points higher on the test.

In the second experiment, students were assigned to multitask with laptops, while two additional groups of nineteen students each were given pen and paper for note taking during a lecture and either placed in view of the laptop users or where they could not see them. In this experiment, the group that could not view the laptops scored seventeen points higher on the comprehension test than did the group that could see the laptops.

It has been known for some time that multitasking degrades task performance. However, this study seems to show that watching someone multitask degrades comprehension as well. It is not clear how this effect applies to students using laptops to take notes: the effect was only measured on students who could see others with laptops while taking notes with pen and paper.

Putting aside the small sample sizes and other limitations of the study, this all seems quite damning. Yet, what goes unremarked on in the study is how abysmally all of the students did on the comprehension tests. Only one group had a mean average above a D — the pen and paper, no-laptops-in-view group averaged a 73%. One could argue that this result suggests the group performed along a bell curve — that is, they were average, scoring right in the middle of the grade scale.

But, we aren’t talking about students with a full course load and normal pressures: we are talking about a small group of students who listened to someone talk for under an hour and then immediately took a test on what they heard. That group was just barely able to average a passing grade. One might suggest this pen and paper group was best suited to comprehend the lecture — that is, the lecture in its current form evolved to serve handwritten notes — but then one wonders why the shoddy outcomes of the lecture format are worth defending. That is, there may be a higher ceiling for classroom education than a 73% average on a quiz.

Put as a question, why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classes? Is it just to protect the lecture? We know what a classroom designed around lectures, notes, and quizzes can do, and it is not impressive. Shirky may be getting the best out of the students in his lectures by forcing them to leave their laptops behind, but maybe both he and they can do better. Perhaps by embracing the new forms and structures of communication enabled by laptops and other portable electronics we might discover new classroom practices that enable new and better learning outcomes.

There is a robust body of research exploring alternatives to the lecture. Never before has technology been so able to support a new understanding of learning, but as Rivers argues, suppressing the use of new technologies avoids and ignores such discussions. There is a network of concerns at work here: what is the value of pedagogies like lecturing? What is the value of attention-structuring activities like note-taking? What role do emerging communication technologies have in mediating pedagogies and attention-structuring activities? The goal of the instructor should be to balance these concerns and push forward to discover new ways of learning.

As the title of this post suggests, I’m not for banning lectures, either. What I am for is pedagogies that are nimble and responsive to a range of needs and outcomes for both instructor and student. The lecture has its place. Asking students to close their laptops has its place. But, failing to explore new possibilities for education prompted by emerging technologies does not serve the interests of either group.

Banner image credit: Lars Kristian Flem

by mcruz at January 26, 2015 04:00 PM

Global Voices
Nepal's #SmashChairChallenge Pressures the Constituent Assembly to Draft the Constitution
Screenshot from Twitter.

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Nepali Twitter-sphere is filled with images of people throwing chairs. Thanks to the infamous incident in the Nepal’s Constituent Assembly where Maoist lawmakers threw chairs, the Twitter users in Nepal have started #SmashChairChallenge, an online satire to press the Constituent Assembly members to draft the constitution on time.

Nepal is governed under the Interim Constitution of Nepal, which was promulgated in January 2007. The new constitution was to be formally declared by May 2010, but the Constituent Assembly changed the deadline several times because of many points of disagreement between the political parties.

In May 2012, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai dissolved the elected Constituent Assembly after it failed to finish the constitution, ending four years of constitution drafting and leaving the country in a legal vacuum. Elections to a second Constituent Assembly were held on November 19, 2013 and political leaders have pledged to draft a new constitution within a year. The latest deadline was on January 22 – but on January 20, 2015, a fight broke out in the Nepali Assembly, where Maoist and Madhesi lawmakers scuffled with ruling party politicians.

The Nepali Twitter users had seen enough of the brawl and decided to do something about it. Brazesh Khanal, an author, columnist and screenplay writer tweeted:

There’s a plan to upload photos from 10:45 AM with hashtag #SmashChairChallenge. All are requested to participate, get your photo ready.

He challenged his followers to do the same, after he uploaded a picture of himself throwing a chair.

People have been accepting the challenge, to the point where it has become viral on Twitter.

Navin Khatiwada, a journalist with the English daily Republica, tweeted:

Narayan Wagle, a noted author and journalist, showed solidarity with the social media campaign. Journalist Girish Giri tweeted:

Narayan Wagle’s solidarity to #SmashChairChallenge

While social media followers have been busy posting pictures of themselves throwing chairs, some think it’s the leaders who should be smashed, rather than smashing the chairs symbolically.

Umesh Upadhayaya, a software developer, tweeted:

Some, like Rudra Pangeni, a journalist with Republica, were even in favour of smashing people protesting on the roads:

The vandalism and attacks in the assembly smashing the furniture were highly publicised by both national and foreign media; netizens agreed that their behaviour caused the country great embarrassment.

Shankar Dahal tweeted:

Kinar Timilsina, a music enthusiast, tweeted:

The Constituent Assembly Secretariat has issued a press release stating the vandalism amounted to NRs three million (1 USD = NRs 98.46). While it is yet to be decided whether the assembly members will be suspended or made to pay for the damage, Nepali social media users are busy supporting the #SmashChairChallenge.

One social media follower tweeted:

Seems [I] won’t be included in the society until I lift a chair and post the photo with #SmashChairChallange

by Sanjib Chaudhary at January 26, 2015 01:44 PM

January 25, 2015

Doc Searls
#Deflategate needs facts

Check out this map:

deflationgate-mapThis isn’t new. Way back in 2008, after the Patriots’ undefeated season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Giants, The Onion wrote Patriots Season Perfect for Rest of Nation. It’s easy to hate an overdog.

Sports is an emotional thing. We care about teams, games and players because we care about them. And, because we care, we have inventories of sports knowledge that we enjoy enlarging through reading, watching, listening and talking to others who care about the same stuff.

Sports also holds us together. When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, there were four topics everybody talked about: the Depression, the War, sports and TV. The first two are long gone, and TV is shattering into a zillion sub-breeds of video. In fact the only breed of TV programming that still needs to be seen live, on schedule, is sports. Thus sports rules what’s left of broadcasting. It’s also what keeps newspapers alive.

When games aren’t on, about all you can do with sports is talk about it. Subjects come and go, but all are fueled by the need to talk about something, or anything. Hence the big topic of the moment: #deflationgate.

I’ll put my loyalty cards on the table: I like the New England Patriots. But I’m not hard core, or a lifer. I’ve hung out in New England for the last eight and a half years, and I’ve come to favor the teams there. But I also grew up in New Jersey, just across the river from New York, where I am right now. When I was a kid I cared a lot more about the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Mets, Giants and Knicks than I do now about the Patriots or the Celtics. During my twenty years in North Carolina, I became a Duke basketball fan. (I also like Carolina, Wake, State and Virginia, in roughly that order.) When I lived in the Bay Area, for more than a decade and a half, I became a fan of the Giants, 49ers and Warriors. In fact I had season tickets to Warriors games for several years. So mostly I like sports, and that’s my main point. Can’t help it.

Yet something I care about more than any team or sport is journalism. That’s been my vocation or avocation for all my adult life, and I take its virtues seriously. I also see those virtues lacking in most coverage of #deflationgate. Sure, sports coverage is mostly about opinion, the best of which is “analysis.” But how about just some actual journalism here?

I mean, wtf are the facts? Do we actually know the ones that matter, for sure? We know some of the rules and official procedures, and that’s cool. But as for who did what, when and how, we have nothing. From Bill Belichick and Tom Brady we have denials of knowing anything about the under-inflated balls used by the Patriots in their last game, against the Colts. (Note that I don’t say “deflated,” because I’ve read or heard nothing from anybody about deflation of the balls; but we all know they had to have been inflated at some point.) Those denials, even if they prove wrong, are facts. As for the rest of the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How Much, the ratio of fact to opinion in coverage of the topic runs about one in a thousand, or worse. Who inflated and/or deflated the footballs, when, where, and how? Who inspected them — where, when and how? Perhaps by now the league knows. But the rest of us haven’t heard much more than speculation.

The most unhelpful speculations are ad hominem arguments made against the Pats, Belichick and Brady. Yes, the Belichick and the Pats were caught cheating once. That doesn’t mean they cheated this time. Matt Leinart tweets that every team tampers with their footballs. Presumably that’s an informed opinion, but it’s still just an opinion. Where’s the proof? The same question survives John Madden fingering Brady as the buck-stopper. It’s just opinion. No facts there.

But sentiment runs strong, especially against overdogs. I hated the New York Yankees when I was growing up, even though I liked Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and other Yankees players. It’s easy to hate the Patriots, with their pretty-boy quarterback and their coach who bathes in a tub full of warm entrails. But we need facts here.

Credit where due: CBS Sports, Heavy. Got any others? Love to see ‘em.

by Doc Searls at January 25, 2015 06:34 PM

Global Voices
10 Ways Mexicans Can Reclaim Their Troubled Country, According to Denisse Dresser
Denisse Dresser. Photo by Pablo H. Originally published in Flickr under Creative Commons License.

Denisse Dresser. Photo by Pablo H. Originally published in Flickr under Creative Commons License.

During the presentation of her book “Mexico, el país de uno” (the country of one's own), political commentator and author Denisse Dresser shared with attendees of her talk as well as YouTube viewers 10 ways she thinks that citizens can “regain Mexico”, a country that according to the author “has been rented to its inhabitants for far too long”. For Dresser, Mexico has for far too long “belonged to its religious leaders [...] to its conquerors, to its liberals, to its dictators, to its PRI partisans, to its imperial presidents, to its monopolists, to its political parties and to its elites”.

Dresser makes reference to the ills that have made Mexico's recent history full of difficult challenges. From corruption in politics to social inequalities, Mexico's path has not been free of hardship, specially for the poor. The most recent troubles are deeply connected with drug-related violence, and the war on drugs. This has also resulted in what Dresser sees as a certain indifference that needs to surpassed, so Mexico can get back to its real owners: its citizens.

Dresser’s words are addressed to a society in difficult times; her ideas are based on facts that very difficult to be ignored. However, the challenges she listed and the hardships she reflected on can easily be those of many other countries both in the region and the world:

México vive obsesionado con el fracaso, con lo que pudo ser, pero no fue… con lo perdido, lo olvidado, lo maltratado [...] Estos son tiempos nublados de muertos y heridos, de poderes fácticos y reformas que realmente no los confrontan del todo.

Mexico is obsessed with failure. With what could have been, but wasn’t. With what was lost, forgotten, mistreated [...] These are foggy times of the dead and the wounded, of factual powers and reforms that don’t really deal with them completely…

 Thus, to “regain Mexico”, Dresser proposed 10 simple steps, summarized here:

  1. To be irreverent to power: “It’s vital to be a full embodied citizen”.
  2. To vote and “understand the candidate, scrutinize him/her [...] to know where he/she comes from and where she/he goes”.
  3. To be informed: “I wish you’d understand that if you get most information from TV, you won’t be exposed to big pieces of the country’s reality. I wish you’d understand that the strongest limits to free speech come frequently from [the TV networks]  Televisa and Television Azteca.”
  4. To engage with and evaluate your legislator, municipal representative or governor: “I wish you’d understand this person is your employee, because his and her salary comes from the taxes that, I hope, you’re paying”.
  5. To understand that “this famous war on drugs [...] has not produced the results that were expected of it [but has instead] worsened the problems it had set out to solve”.
  6. To understand that Mexico “will only prosper when its people are educated, and quite well educated”.
  7. To oppose monopoly: “There’s no easier way to become rich in this country than being licensed to manage some public asset”.
  8. To collect the garbage outside your home: “To become responsible for that public space that is your country”.
  9. To connect with others through online citizen media: “I wish you’d understand that it is fundamental to strengthen the attachment between new technologies and the exercise of political and civil rights in Mexico”.
  10. To recognize “that it is our duty to give something back to our country. To give some of our time, our talent, our energy”.

The full speech, in Spanish, can be seen here:

Throughout her speech, Dresser reflected on what it means to be a citizen nowadays, and what the challenges for Mexico’s new generation of citizens are. She mentioned examples, recommended authors, films, readings, and online newspapers that could encourage this change in people’s mentalities. 

Another important point of the talk were the vices that have come from Mexico’s political history. Dresser laments the comeback of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in Spanish), the political party that ruled the country for over 70 years and which returned to power with Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency:

Vivimos de paliativo en paliativo, del “Laberinto de la soledad” al yugo de las bajas expectativas. Y aunque es cierto que algunas de las prácticas del pasado han sido enterradas, numerosos vicios institucionales asociados con el autoritarismo y el viejo PRI siguen ahí, coartando la representación ciudadana, y la gobernabilidad democrática.

We go from palliative to palliative, from “The Labyrinth of Solitude” to the oppression of having low expectations. And even when it’s true that some of the practices of the past have been buried, numerous institutional vices associated with authoritarianism and the old PRI are still there, restricting citizen participation and democratic governability.

Mexicans have more in common with Frodo, the hobbit burdened with saving all of Middle-earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, than they might think, according to Dresser. She underlined how most Mexicans, like Frodo, are called to be a hero in spite of themselves:

El hobbit Frodo es un héroe renuente. Frodo no quiere asumir la tarea que le ha sido encomendada. Frodo preferiría quedarse en el Shire y vivir en paz ahí. Y en México muchos Frodos actúan así, piensan así, viven así. Prefieren criticar a los que gobiernan en lugar de involucrarse para que lo hagan mejor. Eligen la pasividad complaciente en lugar de la participación comprometida. Pero Frodo no tiene otra opción. Y ustedes, los ciudadanos mexicanos, tampoco.

Frodo, the hobbit, is a reluctant hero. Frodo doesn’t want to assume the task that has been given to him. Frodo would rather stay in The Shire and live there in peace. And in Mexico, lots of Frodos act like this, think like this, live like this. They prefer to criticize those in power instead of engaging so they can do it better. They choose obliging passivity over engaged participation. But Frodo has no choice. And you, Mexican citizens, have no choice either. 

At the conclusion of her talk, Dresser summed up in a hopeful tone, reminding what is most important:

Creo que es muy emocionante ser mexicano en esta época, aunque uno tenga que coexistir con el regreso del PRI. Yo agradezco esa dádiva. No siento que seamos incambiables, no siento que seamos inamovibles, no creo que seamos inferiores a otros ni que nos merezcamos menos. Somos de la región más transparente del aire, venturosamente, somos de México.

I think it’s very exciting to be Mexican in these times, even if one has to coexist with the return of the PRI. I’m thankful for that gift. I don’t feel we’re unchangeable, I don’t feel we’re immovable, I don’t think we’re inferior or deserve less. We’re the most transparent region of the air. We’re, providentially, from Mexico.

The video of the speech has 79,000 views on YouTube and has attracted interesting comments from concerned netizens and viewers. Most of them welcomed Dresser’s ideas and shared the 10 ways that could make a good Mexican citizen, according to her.

Nevertheless, other comments were still doubtful and pessimistic, given the difficulty of the circumstances. ThousandYoung wrote:

Toda la historia ha demostrado que sólo ha habido cambios a través de una revolución a causa de un gobierno inútil o fallido. Todos los gobiernos se corrompen después de determinado tiempo. Entonces lo que se necesita es un sacrificio y otra renovación.

History has shown that change has only come through a revolution after a useless or failed government. All governments become corrupt after a certain time. Then what is needed is sacrifice, and a renewal.

But in the end, most opinions were like Alberto Escobar's, supportive of Dresser's ideas: 

Me inspira esta mujer a exigir lo que merecemos

This woman inspires me to demand what we deserve.

by Laura Vidal at January 25, 2015 07:04 AM

Yemen's Uncertainty
A telling cartoon about Yemen by Amjad Rasmi where the traditional Yemeni dagger (Janbiyah) worn by Yemenis is an overturned question mark instead.

A telling cartoon about Yemen by Amjad Rasmi where the traditional Yemeni dagger (Janbiyah) worn by Yemenis is an inverted question mark instead.

Yemen, often described as a “failed state“ or “on the brink“, has become a country without a president and a government. In addition to observers, Yemenis living inside the country are also perplexed by the latest dramatic developments unfolding in Yemen, which resulted in the swift takeover of its capital city, Sanaa, by the Houthi militia. The Houthi militia also took over the state media, the Presidential Palace and residence, and the Prime Minister's residence, blockading government buildings and taking over a military installation, ultimately resulting in the resignation of the Prime Minister, cabinet and president on Thursday, January 20th.

Yemeni journalist and head of Yemen Polling Center, Hafez Albukari tweeted:

After capturing Amran mid-summer, the Houthis, a rebel group reportedly backed by Iran and who claim their movement is against corruption and embezzlement, took over Sana'a and the rest of the country last September and eventually became the de facto power in Yemen. With the signing of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), a power sharing deal which aimed to bring the Houthis and Southern separatists into a more inclusive government, the president was required to appoint a Prime Minister who was “neutral, without any party affiliations” within 3 days and to form a new cabinet within 30 days. However, finding a Prime Minister who would fit that criteria and be approved by all factions was a challenge.

Hisham Al-Omeisy sarcastically tweeted:

The President initially nominated Ahmed Awad Ben Mubarak, who was the Secretary General of the National Dialogue Conference (NDCYE). However, ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Party, the General People's Congress (GPC), along with the Houthis, objected. Ben Mubarak who was President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi's chief of staff was kidnapped by the Houthis last Saturday, January, 17th and remains so until the writing of this post. Khaled Mahfoudh Bahah, who was at that time Yemen's envoy to the United Nations and served as oil minister, was appointed instead as Prime Minster on October 13th, 2014 and was welcomed by the Houthis. After nominations and rejections, the newly appointed cabinet which included young names and four ministerial posts assigned to women, was a promising mixture which brought optimism and hope nevertheless.

Yet the PNPA, and the best cabinet formed since 2011, did not survive for long. The Houthis militancy and never ending demands drove away initial sympathisers as the vision of a civil and less corrupt Yemen faded away. Instead of honouring their part of the agreement by withdrawing, the Houthis spread more militias and road blocks across Sana'a and kidnapped the president's chief of staff demanding changes in the draft constitution and more power, which led to the complete takeover of Sanaa in last week's events.
Waddah Othman tweeted what the distorted meaning of partnership was according to the Houthis:

A partnership is you implementing for me all the needs I want but regarding your needs we you can sit and discuss them later

Despite the international and Gulf media hyped fear that AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) or Iran might take over Yemen, Yemenis main concern is who will fill the power vacuum in their country.
Haykal Bafana, dismissed that threat with his tweet:

Gregory Johnson, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia” supported that by saying:

He added:

Many in Yemen question the Houthis’ intentions and their sudden rise to power – their being a minority group yet being able to swiftly gain control over cities across Yemen, raid state institutions, sack public officials, eventually bringing the government to its knees. What appears undisputed is that the Houthis are not acting alone.

Osamah Al-Rawhani wonders:

Abubakr Al-Shami hints at Saleh's involvement:

Afrah Nasser, a Yemeni Journalist and blogger living in Sweden, points it out clearily:

Many cannot answer the question of who will lead the country, and there is a fear of a possible scenario where the former regime returns through a younger facade, especially after ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for early elections, perhaps paving the way for his elder son. He was seen as the mastermind pulling the strings in last week's dramatic events.

According to the Yemen Times (quoting Nadia Al-Sakkaf), Yemen's Minister of Information in Bahah's government, courageously tweeted updates during the Houthi take-over:

Under the current constitution — the draft constitution remains under debate — if the president is harmed and unable to continue, or if he steps down, the head of Parliament is to ascend to the position. The current head of Parliament, Yahya Al-Rayi, is a high-ranking member of the GPC and was injured in a 2011 attack on the Presidential Palace.

However, the mandate of the current Parliament, which was elected in 2003, was due to expire after six years, in 2009. Under an agreement, the elections were postponed two years. Elections were due in 2011, but were postponed again following the 2011 uprising. The GPC holds 238 out of 301 seats in Parliament.

With Hadi’s resignation the initiative would no longer be in effect, according to Al-Sakkaf, and Parliament’s extended mandate would be dissolved, removing the possibility of Al-Rayi ascending to the presidency.

Jeb Boone, an American journalist who was living in Yemen during the 2011 uprising which ousted Saleh, commented:

If you are still confused about what is happening in Yemen, you can read satirical blogger Karl Sharo's simplified explanation

Over the weekend there were demonstrations refusing Hadi's resignation and against the Houthis in Sanaa, Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, and Al-Baydha, while there were other demonstrations demanding secession in the southern provinces and calling for severing ties with Sana'a. Yet Yemen is not only facing a political vacuum, but also a looming humanitarian disaster which is currently being overlooked as pointed out by Oxfam.

Infographic by IRIN showing the Humanitarian challenges facing Yemen.

Infographic by IRIN showing the Humanitarian challenges facing Yemen.

Yemen's parliament was scheduled to hold an emergency session on Sunday to discuss Hadi's resignation or form a presidential council to run the country until the elections take place. However, the session was cancelled without setting a new date.

Despite the uncertainty looming ahead, Yemenis are resilient people always looking at the bright side, as Abubakr Al-Shamahi tweeted:

Mohammed Al-Assadi also added:

by Noon Arabia at January 25, 2015 05:27 AM

Global Voices Advocacy
Hong Kongers Should Have the Right To Be Forgotten, Says HK Privacy Commissioner
Image from flickr user Mixy Lorenzo. CC: NC-AT-SA

Image from flickr user Mixy Lorenzo. CC: NC-AT-SA

This article was originally published in Chinese on December 31 and was translated by Cheung Choi Wan into English for Global Voices as part of a content-sharing partnership.

Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam Wang has begun expressing strong support for the Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF), the controversial policy under which online search engines can be compelled to remove or “forget” information that is deemed irrelevant or outdated.

In a recent post on the blog of the Office of Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), Chiang argued that concerns about the policy infringing on freedom of expression were overblown and appealed to opponents of the policy to be open-minded about its implementation in Hong Kong. He stated that “rapid developments (of this issue) are expected in the short and medium terms.”

Last May, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that individuals have the right to ask search engines, such as Google, to remove links about them if they find the information “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive.” Since then, Internet activists in Hong Kong and around the world have spoken out against the policy, arguing that it would effectively become a “right to delete” and that it would threaten and restrict freedom of information.

In recent months, the Privacy Commissioner has spoken about the policy at a variety of high profile events. At a forum held by the Asia Pacific Privacy Authority (APPA) in Vancouver, Canada, Chiang pledged to APPA members that he would:

…continue to closely examine the forthcoming developments. While no concrete action has been contemplated, the possibility of future collective action is not ruled out either.

According to an industry insider, APPA members were not able to reach a consensus about the Right to Be Forgotten at the forum, largely because of the vast political differences between Asia Pacific countries. It would therefore be difficult to implement the policy on the regional level.  

The same source also said Chiang might introduce RTBF into Hong Kong through code of practice or via a local court case.

Speaking at the Hong Kong University Symposium on Privacy on Greater China, Chiang said that he had never proposed enacting laws on RTBF, but did emphasize that transnational network companies, such as Google, should implement consistent privacy policies globally.

From Chiang’s blog post, it could be seen that his stance has toughened over the last six months, and particularly over the last three weeks. Last June, when he wrote about RTBF for the first time, he made it clear that he would follow up with the ruling, “including the possibility of APPA members engaging with Google and other search engine operators to discuss the rights of users in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Despite Chiang's various statements, over the last six months, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has not made any major moves on the issue.

Meanwhile, a working committee comprising EU data protection authorities released a set of guidelines on the implementation of RTBF at the end of last November. It is stated in the guidelines that search engine companies now only remove links in EU domains which is insufficient. To guarantee the effective and complete protection of the rights of data subjects, it is suggested that link removal be effective in all relevant domains, including .com (see Guidelines, p.9). In light of this new development, EU member states are expected to step up measures to implement RTBF and other governments have more ground to follow suit.

In his most recent blog post, in which he expresses strong support for RTBF, Chiang quotes the EU Guidelines as his basis for supporting RTBF and classifies his opponents’ reactions as being “overblown”. He tries to refute their concerns point by point, but his arguments fail to address the doubts of the public.

Below are the three main arguments that Chiang puts forward and the stand of opponents of RTBF, followed by responses from its opponents:

The implementation of RTBF will only affect the search engines; actual sources of information will not be removed from the Internet.

Opponents: Hong Kong In-Media has pointed out earlier in an open letter jointly signed by a number of organizations to Chiang that search engines are one of the few ways that citizens gain access to information freely. Netizens are used to searching for information using search engines. Links being removed from search results will make it more difficult for people to get information that they are looking for and will block information flow.

RTBF cannot be used for “white washing”. Requests for removal of links will be considered based on 13 criteria set down by EU. According to statistics on Google’s handling of requests for links removal, only 10% of these cases are controversial and only a few cases have been appealed against Google’s decision. Chiang believes that the implementation of RTBF “will not allow public figures to ‘whitewash’ their unflattering personal tidbits. Nor will it allow professionals or public officials who owe a duty to the public to cover up their past misconduct.”

Opponents: Economic Commentator, David Webb, holds out the possibility that some people, who are about to become government officials or public figures, may whitewash themselves by requesting Google to remove links to reports on their drunk driving conviction, infidelity, divorce battle or fake doctorate degree.

RTBF will help to protect the private life of ordinary people. RTBF protects ordinary people by removing search results and reducing harms done to ordinary people whose private life is exposed. If the persons involved are public figures, the search results would not be removed.

Opponents: Organisations that oppose the right have long emphasized that Hong Kong already has laws such as defamation that could balance conflicts between an individual’s rights and freedom of information on the Internet and which could prevent harassment suffered by individuals. Instead of responding to this, Chiang only reiterates that when an ordinary person’s private life is affected, removing search results could definitely reduce the harm suffered by the person involved. has produced a three-minute video explaining why Hong Kong should not introduce the RTBF:

by at January 25, 2015 01:15 AM

January 24, 2015

Miriam Meckel
Die Optimismuspille


In Davos traf sich die Weltwirtschaft. Ökonomischer Optimismus kommt aus China und den USA. Europa muss noch aufwachen.

Frische Luft tut gut. Von diesem Satz hat Davos immer gelebt. Als Luftkurort für Lungenkranke ebenso wie als Gedankenkurort für Routinegeplagte. Die Lungenkranken sind ob des medizinischen Fortschritts inzwischen wieder weg. Die Routinegeplagten kommen noch immer. Sie haben sich auch in diesem Jahr in den Graubündner Bergen am World Economic Forum (WEF) versammelt, um dem Gegenteil dessen zu huldigen, was der Aufklärungsphilosoph Immanuel Kant aus Vernunftgründen als moralische Verpflichtung des Menschen beschrieben hat: Optimismus.

Kann es sein, dass Europa diesen Ansatz inzwischen ganz vergessen hat? Kann es sein, dass ein gedankliches Raunen durch das Davoser Kongresszentrum ging, als ein optimistischer Moment entstand, den niemand so erwartet hatte? Kann es sein, dass der vielleicht optimistischste Anlauf beim diesjährigen WEF aus China kam?

Ja, das kann sein.

In der stickigen Luft der Kongresshalle hielt der chinesische Ministerpräsident Li Keqiang eine engagierte und zukunftsgewandte Rede. China stehe für Marktöffnung und werde sich weiter wandeln, sich für mehr Rechtssicherheit, mehr Eigentumsschutz und mehr Innovationen starkmachen. Und dann folgte eine Passage, die nachklingt: Der chinesische Ministerpräsident warb für „massenweises Unternehmertum“. Das war der frischeste Wind, der Davos durchwehte.

Es ist eine erstaunliche Kluft, die sich zwischen diesen Worten, den US-Diskussionsbeiträgen zu „Economic Opportunities“ und den Reden der Repräsentanten Europas aufgetan hat. Bei Letzteren war immer wieder von Vertrauensverlust, Krise, lahmender Wirtschaft die Rede. Auch die Entscheidung der EZB, von März an monatlich notleidende Staatsanleihen in Höhe von 60 Milliarden Euro aufzukaufen, war in Davos nur unter Europäern Thema. Im angloamerikanischen Raum zuckt man die Achseln: zu spät, zu zögerlich, wirkungslos.

Für insgesamt 1140 Milliarden Euro will die EZB bis September 2016 Papiere kaufen. Das ist die am teuersten erkaufte Zeit, die Europa jemals bekommen hat. Die Milliardenschwemme ist eine Optimismuspille für den Kontinent, der nicht mehr recht an sich selbst und seine Heilungskräfte glaubt. Ihre Wirkung ist umstritten. Die wütenden Reaktionen in Deutschland zeigen: Nicht mal als Placebo ist die Pille unumstritten.

Das ist nicht gut. Wenn wir in Europa kein „massenweises Unternehmertum“ haben, dann liegt das auch an der gegenwärtigen Situation. Die Märkte sind mit Liquidität geflutet, es wird trotzdem nicht investiert, die Wirtschaft will nicht anziehen. Stattdessen baut die Geldpolitik der EZB einen Verschiebebahnhof der besonderen Art: Endstation Sanktnimmerlein.

Liegt das in der alleinigen Verantwortung der EZB? Nein. Europa wurde fiskalpolitisch falsch gebaut. Dieses Problem schleppt es nun mit sich herum wie einen Virus, der nur schwer behandelbar ist. Die Medizin kommt nicht von der EZB, sondern muss von den Regierungen geliefert werden.

Reformen – eine Bringschuld

Wie sagte Ministerpräsident Li Keqiang in seiner Rede: „Davos war einmal ein Luftkurort. Dann wurde das Penizillin erfunden, und Davos hat sich gewandelt – zu einem Ort geistiger Erholung. Wir brauchen ein neues Penizillin.“ In anderen Worten: Aufbruch entsteht nicht durch kleinteiliges Problem-Management, sondern durch große Ideen. Womit eigentlich alles über die Hunderte Milliarden der EZB gesagt ist.

Aber jetzt mal optimistischer: Es gibt eine Chance, dass aus der Geldschwemme doch noch etwas Gutes werden kann. Im Vorfeld der Entscheidung vom vergangenen Donnerstag war immer wieder Thema, dass der Druck aus Deutschland gegen den Kauf weiterer Staatsanleihen nicht nachgelassen hat. Den Regierungen von Frankreich, Italien und Spanien ist damit ein Entlastungsargument gegenüber der eigenen Bevölkerung an die Hand gegeben worden: Wir haben es geschafft, die EZB-Entscheidung gegen Deutschland durchzusetzen und damit Zeit gewonnen. Aber im Gegenzug sind nun auch zügig Reformen fällig.

by Miriam Meckel at January 24, 2015 03:55 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Global Voices Calls for Immediate Release of Jailed Online Media Workers and Activists
Zelalem, Edom, and Befeqadu, three jailed Global Voices authors in Ethiopia.

Zelalem, Edom, and Befeqadu, three jailed Global Voices authors in Ethiopia.

The Global Voices community released today a statement condemning the imprisonment of bloggers, media workers and online activists around the world. Names of jailed individuals from countries like China, Bahrain, and Mexico were read collaboratively in the opening session of the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2015, in Cebu City, Philippines. The statement asserts Global Voices’ commitment to freedom of expression and their support for their release from prison.

We, the members of the Global Voices community, call for an immediate release of all online activists, independent media workers, and bloggers around the world who are currently imprisoned by governments or held by extremists. Like these individuals—many of whom are our friends and colleagues—we believe in the right and power of open expression to drive change, inspire cooperation and resolve conflict. This power cannot be realized, however, without protection of the universal human right to free expression.

The following are just some of the people suffering repression at the hands of their governments or other powerful actors capable of organized military force. There are many more. We cannot remain silent—and you should not either. We ask you to join us in demanding that all governments fulfill their duty under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: protect and respect the rights of these individuals.

Youcef Ould Dada

Rasul Jafarov
Khadija Ismayil
Omar Mammadov
Abdul Abilov
Rashadat Akhundov
Rashad Hasanov
Ilkin Rustamzade
Mahammad Azizov

Abduljalil Alsingace
Hussein Hubail
Ali Mearaj
Ahmed Humaidan
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja
Zainab Al-Khawaja
Ammar Abdulrasool
Nabeel Rajab
Ghada Jamsheer

Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang, Chomei
Xiang Nanfu
Ilham Tohti
Qi Chonghuai
Memetjan Abdulla, Freelance
Dokru Tsultrim (Zhuori Cicheng)
Niyaz Kahar, Golden Tarim
Chen Wei
Gheyrat Niyaz (Hailaite Niyazi), Uighurbiz
Liu Xiaobo
Gulmire Imin
Yang Tongyan (Yang Tianshui)
Zhang Miao

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Alaa Abd El Fattah
Mahmoud Abdel Nabi
Ahmed Fouad
Abdullah al-Fakharny
Samhi Mustafa
Sanaa Seif
Yara Sallam

Eskinder Nega
Reeyot Alemu
Woubshet Taye
Temesgen Desalegn
Abel Wabela
Befeqadu Hailu
Atnaf Berahane
Natnael Feleke
Mahlet Fantahun
Zelalem Kibret
Edom Kassaye
Tesfalem Weldeyes
Asemamaw Hailegiorgis

Saraj Aladin Mirdamadi
Mahdieh Golroo
Saeed Malekpour
8 Facebook users
Soheil Arabi

Mohammad Saba'aneh

Abdullah Fairouz Abdullah Abd al-Kareem

Tomislav Kezarovski

Teresa Kok

Ahmed Rizwan Abdulla

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed
Brahim Ould Bilal Ramdane
Djiby Sow
Biram Dah Abeid

Pedro Celestino Canché Herrera

Junaid Hafeez

Saudi Arabia
Soheil Arabi
Souad Al-Shammari
Mikhlif Al-Shammari
Raif Badawi

Tal al-Mallohi
Mazen Darwish
Hussein Ghrer
Jihad As'ad Mohamed
Akram Raslan
Fares Maamou
Ali Mahmoud Othman
Hani al-Zitani
Razan Zeitouneh
Bassel Khartabil (Safadi)

Yassine Ayari

Sevan Nisanyan
Osman Garip
Metin Ozturk

United Arab Emirates
Osama al-Najjar

United States
Barrett Brown

Bui Thi Minh Hang
Dang Xuan Dieu
Le Quoc Quan
Truong Duy Nhat
Minh Man Dang Nguyen
Hong Le Tho
Nguyen Quang Lap
Truong Duy Nhat

by Georgia Popplewell at January 24, 2015 07:46 AM

Global Voices
Cape Town's Fancy Galada Sings to Heal Herself and Others

This article and a radio report by Jeb Sharp for The World as part of the Across Women's Lives project originally appeared on on January 14, 2015 and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

If you stop by Ferryman’s Tavern on the waterfront in Cape Town on a Saturday afternoon, chances are you’ll happen on a local band playing for an overflow crowd. Some of the songs are original, others are covers of old favorites. But they’re all sung with such hopeful, infectious energy — chances are you won’t be able to walk by without stopping.

The racially-mixed band is called Masala, and its vocalist is Fancy Galada. She says singing heals her. “I sometimes go on stage with burdens, but when I get that first note, I sing, I touch someone, and I get healed.”

The crowd seems to pick up on that healing power, and it resonates in a place dealing with so many wounds. Fancy grew up in a township called Langa, just outside Cape Town, during the height of the struggle against apartheid. She remembers soldiers bursting into her house and putting a gun to her chest when she was only 12. They were searching for weapons.

“They terrorized us,” she says. “That memory is still there in my heart.”

Fancy’s mother worked as a maid and nanny for white families and had to leave her own kids at home while she did so. Their father was out of the picture and, as the oldest, Fancy had to take over many family responsibilities.

“I got to cook my first [meal] at 10, because [my mother] taught me how to create a little platform so I could reach the stove and cook,” she says.

Fancy is now a working mother herself. Her daughters are 11 and 19. She makes a living with her music — but she says it’s not an easy balance.

“I am a mother first,” she says. “That’s my first priority, my two daughters. They’ve made me the person I am. They’ve grounded me, made me sensitive as a person, made me work harder. They remind me of how my mother raised me.”

Ask Fancy about women’s rights and status in South Africa today, and she’ll give you an earful.

“We still have that battle of wanting to be heard as women,” she says. “Just yesterday I saw this guy beating up a woman.”

But what she says next surprises me.

“I felt so sorry for him. Sometimes they go to a place where they’re not supposed to go. I felt sorry for him and sorry for that woman. We grew up in a place where a woman’s value was very low. They were not taken as people. We didn’t think women had value. Our society is changing, but the fight goes on.”

And so does Fancy Galada’s song.

Jeb's stories from Cape Town were produced in collaboration with South African journalist Kim Cloete.

by Public Radio International at January 24, 2015 06:30 AM

Ben Adida
(your) information wants to be free – obamacare edition

My friends over at EFF just revealed that is sending personal data to dozens of tracking sites:

It’s especially troubling that the U.S. government is sending personal information to commercial companies on a website that’s touted as the place for people to obtain health care coverage. Even more troubling is the potential for companies like Doubleclick, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and others to associate this data with a person’s actual identity.

The referenced AP story uses even more damning language:

The government’s health insurance website is quietly sending consumers’ personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing, The Associated Press has learned.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Except it’s almost certainly not what it sounds like. It’s almost certainly a simple mistake.

How could this be a mistake, you ask? Here’s what almost certainly happened:

  1. Someone at wanted to analyze patterns of usage of the site. This is often done to optimize sites for better usage. So they added a tracker to their page for MixPanel, for Optimizely, for Google Analytics, and a couple of other sites that help you understand how people use your site. In all likelihood, different departments added different trackers, each for their own purposes, almost certainly with good intentions of making the web site more usable.
  2. Meanwhile, someone else responsible for social media of added a “Tweet This” button, and someone else added a YouTube video. Once again, these come in the form of widgets, often snippets of JavaScript code, that load resources from their respective home base.
  3. Separately, someone built the web form that lets you enter basic information about yourself so you can find a health plan. That information is, in large part, fairly personal: your age, your zip code, whether or not you smoke, etc. And for some reason, almost certainly completely random, they used a web form with an action type of GET.
  4. Here’s the first mildly technical point. When you submit a GET form, the data in the form is appended to the URL, like so:

    Not a big deal, since that data is going to anyways.

  5. And now for the second mildly technical point. For tracking purposes, trackers often blindly copy the current URL and send it to their homebase, so that the trackers can tell you users spent 5s on this page, then 10s on that page, etc. In addition, when your browser requests an embedded YouTube video, or an embedded tracker, it sends the current URL as part of the request in a so-called Referrer field.
  6. Put those two technical points together, and boom: a web site that collects personal information with GET forms and uses third-party tracking widgets tends to send form data to those third parties.

This is extremely common. Many web sites with sufficiently large engineering teams have no idea how many trackers they’ve embedded. It’s typical for a web site to move from one site analysis tool to another and to forget to remove the first tracking widget in the process. When the Wall Street Journal reported on these issues a couple of years ago with their fantastic What They Know series, they forgot to mention that their own page has a half-dozen trackers embedded.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: unfortunately, your information wants to be free. My favorite analogy remains:

when building a skyscraper, workers are constantly fighting gravity. One moment of inattention, and a steel beam can fall from the 50th floor, turning a small oversight into a tragedy. The same goes for software systems and data breaches. The natural state of data is to be copied, logged, transmitted, stored, and stored again. It takes constant fighting and vigilance to prevent that breach. It takes privacy and security engineering.

So, am I letting off the hook? Not at all, they should have done their due diligence and done a more thorough privacy audit. And using GET forms is particularly sloppy, since it leads to data sprayed all over the place in logs, referrers, etc.

But was this a deliberate attempt at sharing private data with private companies? Not a chance. The press should do a better job of reporting this stuff. And, to my wonderful friends at EFF, this is a gentle nudge to say: so should you. It’s important to differentiate between negligence and malice, to not spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, even when it’s issues we care about.

The good news is that has already responded by (a) reducing their number of trackers significantly and (b) submitting form data using XMLHttpRequest or POST. The bad news is how many people now actually believe that this was intentional, conspiratorial data selling. If that was’s intentions, there are much sneakier ways of doing that without getting caught so easily.

Oh, and if you want to understand more about trackers and block them as you surf the web, try the very excellent Ghostery extension for your browser.

by benadida at January 24, 2015 04:24 AM

Global Voices
Thailand's Military-Appointed Legislature Impeaches Ousted Prime Minister
Image from the Facebook page of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Image from the Facebook page of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thai politics became even more chaotic today when the country's former prime minister was impeached by a legislative body, which was appointed by a military-backed government.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) went through the motions of a secret ballot to impeach former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over corruption related to a rice pledging scheme intended for small farmers that she supervised.

The program involved the government buying the rice output of local farmers at high a price before reselling the rice to the global market. But critics saw the rice subsidy program as a disastrous populist policy that was implemented to benefit the support base of Yingluck's party in the north part of the country.

Yingluck is the first female prime minister of the kingdom, and whose Pheu Thai party-led coalition won the election in 2011. However the military has ruled Thailand since May 2014. The military has drafted a new constitution and appointed several bodies to rule the country and implement electoral and political reforms as part of the normalization process. The NLA is one of the institutions created by the military to oversee the country's transition.

The impeachment reflected the desire of the military to block Yingluck's return to politics.

Security forces were on a state of alert around the parliament during the assembly.

Yingluck has denounced the decision of the legislature, which also banned her from holding public office for five years. She faces several criminal charges (also related to the corruption case) which could see her imprisoned for up to ten years.

Yingluck released a statement on her Facebook, after cancelling a press conference in Bangkok as requested by the authorities.

A translated copy of her statement, as reported on by the Pheu Thai party website, highlights: 

I would like to reaffirm that I am innocent. I would like to thank the minority that voted against the impeachment. I praise you for your strength in upholding the principle of justice. Despite the fact that the process to impeach me was rushed and due process was ignored to the extent it stripped me my basic rights which every Thai citizen is entitled to, I believed that I did my best to present my case.

I insist that the Rice Pledging Scheme is beneficial for the farmers and the country, and the scheme did not incur losses as alleged. Any figures on the losses from the scheme have all been manipulated with bias towards me and with a hidden agenda used to eliminate a political opponent. Worst of all, the rice farmers’ lives have become a political tool.

In the matter of the charges filed by the Attorney General, the former prime minister also said,

It is regrettable that the many so called coincidences that I spoke of yesterday happened once again today. Just an hour before the NLA vote on impeachment, the Office of the Attorney General decided to file criminal charges against me for negligence of duty. This is in conflict with the comments made by the head of prosecuting team that there is not yet enough probable cause. The Office of the Attorney General is an institution that has long played a key role in ensuring justice. Yet their actions on this issue are deemed to be questionable.

In her statement, she decried what she called the absence of democracy and the rule of law, particularly for the farmers.

While the impeachment did not come as a surprise, some provided their analysis of the situation.

Troubled times are brewing, and as long as the country is under martial law, without public participation in governance and accountability, the purge of political opponents will continue.

by Zashnain Zainal at January 24, 2015 12:19 AM

Another Day, Another Violent Police Crackdown Against Protesters in Brazil
Police violence in front of the Mayors Office in São Paulo. Photo by MPL, free to use

Police shoots stunt grenades, tear gas bombs and rubber bullets in front of the City Hall in São Paulo, January 16. Photo by Felipe Larozza/MPL, usage is free.

A second demonstration against the rise in bus, subway and train fares organized by the Free Pass Movement (MPL) in São Paulo, Brazil on January 16, once again ended in violence. 

A total of 20,000 people gathered for the protest, according to the organizers (2,000, according to police). From the very beginning of the demonstration, tension was present with at least 1,000 police officers surrounding the protesters. Independent media collective Mídia Ninja described the scene:

Até as 20h33, a manifestação vinha bem, apesar de a PM ter detido um manifestante pelo “pecado” de carregar uma rodinha de skate na mochila. Jogaram-no no chão como a um saco de lixo, imobilizaram-no. Logo ele foi solto. Também explodiu um artefato de gás lacrimogêneo na frente do Ministério do Trabalho, na rua da Consolação 1272…

Mas a passeata seguiu firme e organizada, apesar de duas agências bancárias (uma da Caixa Econômica Federal e outra do Banco do Brasil) terem sido depredadas não se sabe nem por quem.

Era alta a tensão reinante.

Until 20:33, the demonstration wore on without incident, despite the fact that the military police arrested a protester for the “sin” of carrying a skateboard wheel in his backpack. They threw him to the ground like a bag of garbage, immobilized him. Soon he was released. [Police] [a]lso blew up a tear gas device in front of the Ministry of Labour, on the street of Consolação 1272 …

But the march continued on, resolute and organized, despite two bank agencies (the Caixa Econômica Federal and the Banco do Brasil) being vandalized by unknown people.

It was the reigning high tension.

Website Ponte recorded and posted a video of the moment a protester, Osvaldo Carvalhosa, was arrested at Consolação street. Still, despite the few bombs and the tear gas, the demonstration remained calm and walked towards the City Hall. That was when real clashes began.

THousands walk at Consolação Street. Photo by MPL, free to use.

Thousands walk at Consolação Street. Photo by MPL, usage is free. 

A video of the protest marching at Consolação street was published by YouTube user k4rshh:

Journalist Fausto Salvadori recorded and posted on his Facebook a video of the police throwing stun grenades, tear gas bombs and rubber bullets against those who were gathered in front of the City Hall:

This happened a few meters from our team, which was almost hit by the first bombs. The military police's version is therefore false.

Many videos are coming to light with scenes of violence perpetrated by the police. Collective Território Livre published a photo of a demonstrator who was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

Journalist Charles Nisz also tweeted:

Someone threw a plastic bottle at the shield of the shock [batallion]. The military police responded with tear gas. Dworkin would call it lack of proportionality 

Photo of the alleged Molotov. Photo by Ben Taverner, used with permission.

Photo of the alleged molotov cocktail. Photo by Ben Taverner, published with permission

Magazine Carta Capital reported it was actually a beer bottle thrown at a police officer's shield. Police Marshall Victor Fedrizzi stated that a “rojão”, a type of firework, was launched at the police, though some witnesses say that police bombs preceded any fireworks.

Activist Bruno Bonsanti tweeted:

A bottle, bombs. Yes, just right, fully proportional.

Website Ponte recorded a short  video of people running to escape the police and denounced that they were attacked with pepper spray while trying to approach a woman who had passed out from the fumes. On the other hand, journalist Ben Taverner condemned the use of a molotov cocktail by a protester:

He caught on video the moment when what is believed to be a molotov cocktail is thrown at the police. When watched in slow motion, it's possible to see that the police starts shooting (possibly stun grenades and tear gas) before the alleged homemade bomb hits the ground.

Stills of a video (link on the end of the post) showing people running on the streets and being targeted by the police.

Stills of a video (link on the end of the post) showing people running in the streets and being targeted by the police.

He also added on his blog:

The MPL said it believed at least 13 people were arrested, and that police had prevented lawyers and legal observers from carrying out their duties. Police had not yet disclosed final arrest tallies at the time of writing.

The protest movement later accused the police of targeting protesters disproportionately with “gratuitous attacks”, but police released video that purported to show protesters attacked police first.

The military police's official Twitter account stated fireworks were shot against them and their police cars. On the other hand, journalist Jessica Santos argued:

Eu não estava na Prefeitura, mas estava no teatro e só escutamos fogos de artifício depois de pelos menos 4 ou 5 bombas. Então fica difícil considerar que foram os fogos que motivaram a ação.

I wasn't at the City Hall, but was at the theater and [we] only heard fireworks after at least 4 or 5 bombs. So it is difficult to assume that these were the fireworks that led to action.

Journalist Pedro Zambada agrees with Jessica, stating that “The bombs of the Military Police detonated first. Because they didn't want us to get to the Secretariat of Transport”. Other sources agree.

PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers Party) posted a video on its YouTube channel with scenes of the police repression in front of City Hall:

Professor Eduardo Sterzi accused the police of using violence against citizens and asked for the abolition of the military police:

Se vocês pudessem ver o desespero de uma mãe, com sua filha de uns cinco anos, ambas chorando muito, tentando fugir das bombas dessa polícia covarde, entenderiam que não basta desmilitarizar esse bando de assassinos. É preciso extinguir a instituição e punir seus integrantes e mandantes.

If you could see the desperation of a mother with her daughter about five years old, both crying a lot, trying to escape this coward police's bombs, you would understand that demilitarizing his murderous gang is not enough. We must extinguish the institution and punish its members and leaders.

Collective Ocupa Sampa jokingly tweeted:

A lot of bombs! Police again attacked the demonstration. It's democratic bomb to disperse the popular uprising. #AgainstFare #FreePass

- Ocupa Sampa (OcupaSampa) January 16, 2015

Both professor Pablo Ortellado and the MPL accused the media, specifically São Paulo's two biggest newspapers Folha de São Paulo and O Estado de São Paulo, of criminalizing demonstrators, just like in 2013, when their own journalists were targeted and wounded:

Folha and Estado you are accomplices of police violence.

- Pablo Ortellado (pablo_ortellado) January 17, 2015

Part of the responsibility for the free Military Police attacks to the demonstration is in the account of Folha and Estado. #AgainstFare

- MPL – São Paulo (mpl_sp) January 16, 2015

The two newspapers of São Paulo wrote articles advocating and empowering the use of even more “incisive” by the PM against protesters today.

- MPL – São Paulo (mpl_sp) January 16, 2015

It's important to remember that they did exactly the same thing in 2013, on the eve of the demonstration in which the Military Police shot even journalists.

- MPL – São Paulo (mpl_sp) January 16, 2015

However, a video recorded by TV Folha, from the same media group mentioned above, Folha de S. Paulo, showed that since the beginning the intention of the military police was to brutalize those at the demonstration:

Cartoon by @kikodinucci, free to use.

Cartoon by @kikodinucci, free to use.

Due to the violence of the military police in the previous demonstration, that ended with the temporary arrests of more than 50 protesters, the civil police will investigate the military police for torture and abuse of power.

Just like after the first demonstration, Fabio Malini, a professor and activist, published on Facebook a graphical analysis of thousands of tweets about the protests. More photos of the demonstration and of the police brutality can be seen at Midia Ninja's web page. Another demonstration, on the 20th, gathered 8 thousand people and ended up peacefully, but the 4th one, on the 24th was again attacked by the Military Police.

by Raphael Tsavkko Garcia at January 24, 2015 12:13 AM

January 23, 2015

Creative Commons
For Faithful Digital Reproductions of Public Domain Works Use CC0

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s topic is the “Public Domain.” The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.

Creative Commons has long upheld that faithful digital reproductions of works in the public domain are also in the public domain, adhering to the U.S. District Court ruling of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality” 1. Though this ruling is not a binding precedent, it remains highly influential as a legal ruling in the U.S. and elsewhere. Its real world applicability is less well-known. This is why, where possible, we recommend that institutions, especially those curating and providing access to public domain works of cultural heritage, use the CC0 public domain dedication for their digital reproductions where there might be any element of originality that might give rise to doubt.

Creative Commons currently offers two public domain tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark, which can be confused with each other but are very different tools. CC0, like the CC licenses, is a legally operable tool backed by a legal document that we like to call the legal code layer of our tools. Because it is legally operable, copyright owners may use it to relinquish their copyright and related rights in a work, effectively placing that work into the public domain. Where it is not legally possible to relinquish copyright, the tool defaults to CC BY without attribution or any other conditions (CC BY is the most liberal license on the spectrum of CC licenses). The Public Domain Mark, on the other hand, is not a legally operable tool, but merely a standard label that one may place on a work to indicate that its copyright has expired or is otherwise in the public domain worldwide. You can read more about both of these tools here.

We recommend using CC0 for digital reproductions of public domain works where there is reason for users to be concerned that the reproduction itself is subject to copyright. If nothing else, it clearly signals to users that the institution is proactively relinquishing any copyrights they may have in a digital reproduction, furthering its mission to provide greater public access to works of cultural heritage. From the institution’s standpoint, they are not making any guarantees about the public domain work itself, but removing any doubt for the user around any element of originality they may have in the digital reproduction.

Here are a few great cases of institutions committed to strengthening and growing our public domain.


The Rijskmuseum is the Dutch National Museum in the The Netherlands, founded in 1800, that contains many of the original artworks of European masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, in addition to high resolution images of these original artworks. For 10 years, from 2003-2013, much of the physical museum — including 1 million physical items — was closed for renovations. During this period, the museum’s marketing department pushed for the release of its high resolution images of public domain works in order to keep the public engaged throughout the renovation period and as a way to extend the reach of the museum beyond its limited physical showcase. They released 150,000 high resolution images (each as large as 200 MB) into the public domain using CC0. They abided by the principle of unrestricted access to the digital public domain; as in the U.S., faithful digital reproductions of public domain works are considered public domain in Europe. After the release, the museum saw many benefits, including international exposure for the museum, especially during a time when much of the physical museum was closed; new audiences with developers, designers, and related creative industries; and an increase in revenue made from public domain image sales. For more details, see Tim’s post which links to the in-depth case study.

Statens Museum for Kunst

The Statens Museum for Kunst, aka the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, joined the Google Art Project in 2011. At this point, they realized they were giving use rights of images to a private company and could no longer justify charging the public for the same rights. As part of a pilot project, they initially released 100 educational videos and 160 high resolution image files (each as large as 440 MB) of Danish, Nordic and European public domain art under CC BY. Afterwards, they moved to CC0 for their images. Since their release, SMK’s images and videos have been featured on Wikipedia. SMK staff found that their understanding of quality and control changed significantly after releasing the images: “[Our public domain collections] don’t belong to us; they belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. We’re here to look after them and make them available and useful to the public. Use = value.” Read the case study contributed directly by museum staff.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has long been the haven of researchers and bibliophiles alike. Map lovers can join the group with NYPL’s open access maps initiative which has digitized and released more than 20,000 digital reproductions of cartographic works in the public domain. In the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division’s own words, “To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” In addition to public domain maps, NYPL has also used CC0 to dedicate 1 million of its bibliographic metadata records into the public domain.


We want to end the post on Europeana, the digital library for all of Europe and a model for libraries in rights information mark-up. Europeana has identified more than 16.5 million digital objects as being in the public domain (via CC0 or the Public Domain Mark) or under one of the CC licenses, in addition to dedicating 30 million metadata records to the public domain using CC0. Users can browse and search by re-use rights — including all six CC licenses and both public domain tools.

These four cases exemplify only a few institutions that are working to preserve our public domain. For uses of CC0 specific to data, see and add to our wiki page. For more great uses of CC tools and licenses by cultural heritage institutions, check out these slides and add to our wiki page tracking uses by GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums).

Have a great use case to share about the public domain? Leave us a note in the comments.

by Jane Park at January 23, 2015 09:46 PM

Global Voices
Once Again, Mexicans Will Have a Starring Role at the Oscars
Alejandro González Iñárritu. Fotografía tomada de Wikimedia Commons.

Alejandro González Iñárritu. Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons.

For the second consecutive year, Mexican filmmakers will have a leading role in the awards ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, better known as the Oscars. Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Birdman, leads the group. Last year, that role was taken by Alfonso Cuarón, also Mexican, who directed the acclaimed film Gravity.

González Iñárritu is nominated not only for his work as director, but also as screenwriter. Martín Hernández competes for the statuette for sound editing of the same film, also known as The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance or La inesperada virtud de la ignoranciaEmmanuel Lubezki (alias “El Chivo”) competes in the category of Best Cinematography. A year ago, he won the award for Gravity.

It is unusual that the Oscars acknowledge the participation of Mexicans in several films. While it is true that in 2014 Cuarón and Lubezki reminded the Academy and the moviegoing public about the potential and talent of filmmakers to the south of the US border, on other occasions that talent has gone unnoticed.

This does not imply that González Iñárritu is a new name to the list of Oscar nominees. In 2007, “El Negro”, as he is known, was considered for the award for Best Director for Babel, but he did not win.

Meanwhile, The Reaper or La Parka, produced by Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, A.C., is competing for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. This work was written and directed by Gabriel Serra Argüello.

Unlike Birdman or Gravity, La Parka is a Mexican production, while the former are produced by international companies. The producers of La Parka announced the nomination on Twitter:

Here you can watch the trailer for #LaParka, nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Produced by @CCCMexico

From Nicaragua, people have shown support for this short film:

Congratulations #gabrielserra #Oscars2015 #LaParka

Martín Hernández received the news of his nomination while broadcasting his radio show “Asi las cosas”, and this is how his colleagues reacted:

This is #MartínHernández from @WRADIOMexico‘s booth after his nomination #Birdman #Oscars2015

Osvaldo Suarez commended González Iñárritu’s work:

I have always liked Gonzales Inarritu's work, especially his great film “Birdman” great story !!

The eighty-seventh annual Academy Awards will take place on February 22, 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Birdman competes with several other successful films, including The Imitation Game, Selma (based on the activism of Martin Luther King Jr.) and The Theory of Everything (adapted from a book about the love life of Prof. Stephen Hawking), in addition to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, American Sniper and Whiplash.

Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Image by

Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center.          Picture by the author.

González Iñárritu, meanwhile, vies for the Best Director honor against American filmmakers like Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) and the Norwegian Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), who will all hope to bring home the award. As can be expected, it won’t be an easy competition for the Mexican.

by Diana Navarrete at January 23, 2015 01:09 PM

Hong Kongers Should Have the Right To Be Forgotten, Says HK Privacy Commissioner
Image from flickr user Mixy Lorenzo. CC: NC-AT-SA

Image from flickr user Mixy Lorenzo. CC: NC-AT-SA

This article was originally published in Chinese on December 31 and was translated by Cheung Choi Wan into English for Global Voices as part of a content-sharing partnership.

Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam Wang has begun expressing strong support for the Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF), the controversial policy under which online search engines can be compelled to remove or “forget” information that is deemed irrelevant or outdated.

In a recent post on the blog of the Office of Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), Chiang argued that concerns about the policy infringing on freedom of expression were overblown and appealed to opponents of the policy to be open-minded about its implementation in Hong Kong. He stated that “rapid developments (of this issue) are expected in the short and medium terms.”

Last May, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that individuals have the right to ask search engines, such as Google, to remove links about them if they find the information “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive.” Since then, Internet activists in Hong Kong and around the world have spoken out against the policy, arguing that it would effectively become a “right to delete” and that it would threaten and restrict freedom of information.

In recent months, the Privacy Commissioner has spoken about the policy at a variety of high profile events. At a forum held by the Asia Pacific Privacy Authority (APPA) in Vancouver, Canada, Chiang pledged to APPA members that he would:

…continue to closely examine the forthcoming developments. While no concrete action has been contemplated, the possibility of future collective action is not ruled out either.

According to an industry insider, APPA members were not able to reach a consensus about the Right to Be Forgotten at the forum, largely because of the vast political differences between Asia Pacific countries. It would therefore be difficult to implement the policy on the regional level.  

The same source also said Chiang might introduce RTBF into Hong Kong through code of practice or via a local court case.

Speaking at the Hong Kong University Symposium on Privacy on Greater China, Chiang said that he had never proposed enacting laws on RTBF, but did emphasize that transnational network companies, such as Google, should implement consistent privacy policies globally.

From Chiang’s blog post, it could be seen that his stance has toughened over the last six months, and particularly over the last three weeks. Last June, when he wrote about RTBF for the first time, he made it clear that he would follow up with the ruling, “including the possibility of APPA members engaging with Google and other search engine operators to discuss the rights of users in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Despite Chiang's various statements, over the last six months, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has not made any major moves on the issue.

Meanwhile, a working committee comprising EU data protection authorities released a set of guidelines on the implementation of RTBF at the end of last November. It is stated in the guidelines that search engine companies now only remove links in EU domains which is insufficient. To guarantee the effective and complete protection of the rights of data subjects, it is suggested that link removal be effective in all relevant domains, including .com (see Guidelines, p.9). In light of this new development, EU member states are expected to step up measures to implement RTBF and other governments have more ground to follow suit.

In his most recent blog post, in which he expresses strong support for RTBF, Chiang quotes the EU Guidelines as his basis for supporting RTBF and classifies his opponents’ reactions as being “overblown”. He tries to refute their concerns point by point, but his arguments fail to address the doubts of the public.

Below are the three main arguments that Chiang puts forward and the stand of opponents of RTBF, followed by responses from its opponents:

The implementation of RTBF will only affect the search engines; actual sources of information will not be removed from the Internet.

Opponents: Hong Kong In-Media has pointed out earlier in an open letter jointly signed by a number of organizations to Chiang that search engines are one of the few ways that citizens gain access to information freely. Netizens are used to searching for information using search engines. Links being removed from search results will make it more difficult for people to get information that they are looking for and will block information flow.

RTBF cannot be used for “white washing”. Requests for removal of links will be considered based on 13 criteria set down by EU. According to statistics on Google’s handling of requests for links removal, only 10% of these cases are controversial and only a few cases have been appealed against Google’s decision. Chiang believes that the implementation of RTBF “will not allow public figures to ‘whitewash’ their unflattering personal tidbits. Nor will it allow professionals or public officials who owe a duty to the public to cover up their past misconduct.”

Opponents: Economic Commentator, David Webb, holds out the possibility that some people, who are about to become government officials or public figures, may whitewash themselves by requesting Google to remove links to reports on their drunk driving conviction, infidelity, divorce battle or fake doctorate degree.

RTBF will help to protect the private life of ordinary people. RTBF protects ordinary people by removing search results and reducing harms done to ordinary people whose private life is exposed. If the persons involved are public figures, the search results would not be removed.

Opponents: Organisations that oppose the right have long emphasized that Hong Kong already has laws such as defamation that could balance conflicts between an individual’s rights and freedom of information on the Internet and which could prevent harassment suffered by individuals. Instead of responding to this, Chiang only reiterates that when an ordinary person’s private life is affected, removing search results could definitely reduce the harm suffered by the person involved. has produced a three-minute video explaining why Hong Kong should not introduce the RTBF:

by at January 23, 2015 07:47 AM

World Leaders’ Paris March Participation Provokes Wave of Criticism
Je suis Charlie Sheen. One of the many memes which surfaced online after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week

Je suis Charlie Sheen. One of the many memes which surfaced online after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month.

When criticizing something becomes banal, people turn to sarcasm, and the Internet accelerates this process profoundly. Earlier this month, many Internet users responded to images of world leaders at the Paris march against terrorism with a wave of criticism and memes meant to convey their feelings of anger, frustration, and distrust.

The participation of more than 40 world leaders took place in an area separated from ordinary demonstrators. Many of the dignitaries in attendance came from states with their own human rights and terrorism problems. Add to this the public's rage following attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, which claimed the lives of 17 people, and it's not hard to understand why the atmosphere online has become tense indeed.

The Simpsons! (Source could not be confirmed)

The Simpsons! (Shared anonymously online.)

From Ramallah, Palestine, Ahmad Al-Nimer suggests faces he thinks were missing from the Paris march, such as Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Muammar Al Gaddafi, and North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Writing on Facebook, Ziad Khilleh shares a bit of Syrian humor, suggesting that the only legitimate marches from a Syrian official perspective are presumably those glorifying Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad. What other marches could even be possible, even in Paris, after all?

​Ziad Khilleh shared on Facebook. We love you, Bashar!

​Ziad Khilleh shared on Facebook. We love you, Bashar!

Sherif Azer imagines ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak saluting the Paris crowd ahead of the march:

Sherif Azer shared on Facebook. Mubarak says Hello.

Sherif Azer shared on Facebook. Mubarak says Hello.

The fact that many of these leaders are themselves suspected of committing acts of terror and other various crimes wasn't lost on Internet users.

Terrorists Against Terrorism. (Source could not be confirmed)

Terrorists Against Terrorism. (Shared anonymous online.)

"​Definition of Hypocrisy" and infographics. Shared by @carlosezln and others on twitter. (Source could not be confirmed)

“​Definition of Hypocrisy” and infographics. Shared by @carlosezln and others on twitter. (Shared anonymously online.)

Muhammad Khalid shared this on Facebook. March against Terror?

Muhammad Khalid shared this on Facebook. March against Terror?

In zoomed-out photographs of the Paris march and the world leaders’ procession, the separation between the politicians and the ordinary people was quite prominent:

Democracia real YA! Madrid shared on Facebook. "El Pueblo y los Hipócritas"-"The people and the hypocrites"

Democracia real YA! Madrid shared on Facebook. “El Pueblo y los Hipócritas”-”The people and the hypocrites”

Were politicians to catch wind of these memes inspired by their Paris march “participation,” it's anybody's guess what they might think.

by Abir Kopty at January 23, 2015 07:40 AM

Israel's Arab Sector on Strike Over Alleged Police Brutality
"NOW: Funeral of Sami al-Jaar turns into chaos as Israeli police uses live ammunition at attendees #Rahat #Israel," tweets @Activestills.

“NOW: Funeral of Sami al-Jaar turns into chaos as Israeli police uses live ammunition at attendees #Rahat #Israel,” tweets @Activestills.

Israel's Arab sector is on strike over alleged police brutality following the death of two men from the southern, Bedouin city of Rahat. Sami Al Jaar, 22, died during a police operation near his residence, struck by a stray bullet. Sami Al Ziadna, 45, died from tear gas inhaled at Al Jaar's funeral that had been fired by the police. More than 20 were hospitalized for their injuries, including Rahat's mayor, Talal Al Krenawi.  In solidarity, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a national general strike of the Arab sector, closing schools, businesses, and public institutions.  Israeli police maintain that the deaths were not intentional, but rather, collateral damage incurred from other, nearby violence.  In their own defense, police remarked

In a democratic country, in which law and order are at its core, there can't be a situation in which residents attack lawmen who came to do their job. This is challenging the rule of law. We expect the leaders in the (Arab) sector to prevent a further deterioration of the situation and work to restrain the rioters. We won't allow anyone to hurt policemen and will act determinedly against outlaws.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) countered

It is intolerable that Arab citizens [are faced with] such significant danger, including the risk of death, during any friction with police forces. Such a reality points to serious failures in the conduct of the police in confronting Arab citizens. The government must decide whether to continue to blindly support these institutional failings and to deepen the distrust, alienation and fear of the police among the Arab public, or decide on a comprehensive review of police conduct against Arab citizens through the legal and judicial tools at its disposal.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel likewise asserted:  

Ever since the shelving of the Prawer plan the Israeli police have taken a particularly violent and aggressive approach against the Arab-Bedouin citizens with the intention of ‘teaching them a lesson'… In addition, the Police Investigations Unit doesn’t investigate these serious incidents in a fitting and professional manner, and thus enhances the police perception of the Arab citizens as the enemy whose blood can be shed.

The Begin-Prawer Plan, which was cancelled in December 2013, intended to relocate tens of thousands of Bedouins into communities that had been formally established by the Israeli government in order to better provide basic services, such as electricity, water, sewage, and health and educational services. Bedouin communities objected, saying that they had not been consulted as key stakeholders in the plan. It is estimated that there are 200,000 Bedouins who are citizens of Israel's Negev region, 100,000 of whom live in villages that are “unrecognized” by the government and where their most fundamental needs as citizens are not met.  

The city of Rahat, home to an estimated 55,000 people, was established in 1972 by the Israeli government to provide permanent residence to the semi-nomadic tribes. It is one of seven Bedouin towns recognized by the government of Israel. 

On Sunday, January 18, 2015, an estimated 8,000 mourners gathered at the Rahat cementery to memorialize Al Jaar and stand in solidarity with his family. The police and Rahat's mayor agreed that the police would secure the main road but not approach the burial site due to high tensions. 

Witnesses report that a police car driving by the ceremony was met with fury and that members of the crowd reacted immediately by throwing rocks at the vehicle. In response, a large police force advanced upon the mourners, firing tear gas, sound grenades, and cork bullets (which are deemed non-lethal). Tear gas inhalation was reportedly Al Ziadna's cause of death. This second casualty made an already tense situation more dire. 

A community page on Facebook, Breaking News: Rahat, dedicated to the recent protests posted this video footage from Al Jaar's funeral: 



Reporting from the scene, Activestills, an organization of Israeli activists specializing in photojournalism, broke the news of Ziadna's death, writing:

On Twitter, Avi Blecherman, who identifies himself in his profile as a “citizen journalist… social justice and human rights fighter,” posted images of Al Ziadna's funeral on Monday, January 19, picturing large gatherings of people in the cemetery, mourning collectively. He tags them #PoliceBrutality and #BlackLivesMatter, aligning with the US-based movement protesting police violence against African Americans, and the murders of Trayvon Martin (2012) and Michael Brown (2014) in Ferguson, Missouri. 

 He added:

  GVO.Rahat_FB.IAmPalIAmNotATerrorist-HebrewU_19Jan15On Facebook, the page “I Am Palestinian, I Am Not A Terrorist” shared photos of solidarity protests around the country. Pictured here is a mixed Arab-Jewish event at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  In the midst of a developing situation, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin phoned Rahat's Mayor Al Krenawi, conveying his condolences and urging that they find a solution to the current crisis, saying, “It is important that we do this together.”  Disclosure: The author works at an Arab-Jewish organization in Israel that promotes the rights and welfare of the Bedouin community. 

by Maya Norton at January 23, 2015 06:47 AM

Joi Ito
Why Bitcoin is and isn't like the Internet

In the post that follows I'm trying to develop what I see to be strong analogues to another crucial period/turning point in the history of technology, but like all such comparisons, the differences are as illuminating as the similarities. I'm still not sure how far I should be stretching the metaphors, but it feels like we might be able to learn a lot about the future of Bitcoin from the history of the Internet. This is my first post about Bitcoin and I'm really looking more for reactions and new ideas than trying to prove a point. Feedback and links to things I should read would be greatly appreciated.

I'm fundamentally an Internet person -- my real business life started around the dawn of the Internet and for most of my adult life, I've been involved in building layers and pieces of the Internet, from helping start the first commercial Internet service provider in Japan to investing in Twitter and helping bring it to Japan. I've also served on the boards of the Open Source Initiative, the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICANN), The Mozilla Foundation, Public Knowledge, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and been the CEO of Creative Commons. Given my experiences in the early days of the net, it's possible that I'm biased and everything new looks like the Internet.

Having said that, I believe that there are many parallels between the Internet and Bitcoin and there are many lessons from the Internet that can help provide guidance in thinking about Bitcoin and its future, but there are also some important differences.

The similarity is that Bitcoin is a transportation infrastructure that is decentralized, efficient and based on an open protocol. Instead of transferring packets of data over a dynamic network in contrast to the circuits and leased lines that preceded the Internet, Bitcoin's protocol, the blockchain, allows trust to be established between mutually distrusting parties in an efficient and decentralized way. Although you could argue that the ledger is "centralized", it's created through mechanical decentralized consensus.

The Internet has a root -- in other words, just because you use the Internet Protocol doesn't mean that you're necessarily part of the Internet. To be part of THE Internet, you have to agree to the names and numbers protocol and root servers that are administered by ICANN and its consensus process. You can use the Internet Protocol and make your own network, using your own rules for names and numbers, but then you're just a network and not The Internet.

Similarly, you can use the blockchain protocol to create alternative bitcoins or alt.coins. This allows you to innovate and use many of the technological benefits of Bitcoin, but you are no longer technically interoperable with Bitcoin and do not benefit from the network effect or the trust that Bitcoin has.

Also like the beginning of the Internet, there are competing ideas at each of the levels. AOL created a dialup network and really helped to popularize email. It eventually dumped its dialup network, its core business, but survived as an Internet service. Many people still have AOL email accounts.

With crypto-currencies, there are coins that don't connect to the "genesis block" of Bitcoin -- alt.coins that use fundamentally the same technology. There are alt.coins that use slightly different protocols and some that are fundamentally different.

On top of the coin layer, there are various services such as wallets, exchanges, service providers with varying levels of vertical integration -- some agnostic to whichever cryptocurrency ends up "winning" and some tightly linked. There are technologies and services being built on top of the infrastructure that use the network for fundamentally different things than transacting units of value, just as voice over IP used the same network in a very different way.

In the early days of the Internet, most online services were a combination of dialup and x.25 a competing packet switching protocol developed by Comité Consultatif International Téléphonique et Télégraphique, (CCITT), the predecessor to the International Telecom Union (ITU), a standards body that hangs off of the United Nations. Many services like The Source or CompuServe used x.25 before they started offering their services over the Internet.

I believe the first killer app for the Internet was email. On most of the early online services, you could only send email to other people on the same service. When Internet email came to these services, suddenly you could send email to anyone. This was quite amazing and notably, email is still one of the most important applications on the Internet.

As the Internet proliferated, the TCP/IP stack, free software that anyone could download for free and install on their computer to connect it to the Internet, was further developed and deployed. This allowed applications that ran on your computer to use the Internet to talk to other programs running on other computers. This created the machine-to-machine network. It was no longer just about typing text into a terminal window. The file transfer protocol (FTP) and later Gopher, a text-based browsing and downloading service popular before the web was invented, allowed you to download music and images and create a world wide web of content. Eventually, permissionless innovation on top of this open architecture gave birth to the World Wide Web, Napster, Amazon, eBay, Google and Skype.

I remember twenty years ago, giving a talk to advertising agencies, media companies and banks explaining how important and disruptive the Internet would be. Back then, there were satellite photos of the earth and a webcam pointing at a coffee pot on the Internet. Most people didn't have the imagination to see how the Internet would fundamentally disrupt commerce and media, because Amazon, eBay and Google hadn't been invented -- just email and Usenet-news. No one in these big companies believed that they had to learn anything about the Internet or that the Internet would affect their business -- I mostly got blank stares or snores.

Similarly, I believe that Bitcoin is the first "killer app" of The Blockchain as email was the killer app for the beginning of the Internet. We are in the process of inventing eBay, Amazon and Google. My hunch is that The Blockchain will be to banking, law and accountancy as The Internet was to media, commerce and advertising. It will lower costs, disintermediate many layers of business and reduce friction. As we know, one person's friction is another person's revenue.

One of the main things we worked on when I was on the board of ICANN was trying to keep the Internet from forking. There were many organizations that didn't agree with ICANN's policies or didn't like the US's excessive influence over the Internet. Our job was to listen to everyone and create an inclusive and consensus-based process so that people felt that the benefits of the network effect outweighed the energy and cost of dealing with this process. In general we succeeded. It helped that almost all of the founders and key technical minds and technical standards organizations that designed and ran the Internet worked together with ICANN. This interface between the policy makers and the technologists -- however painful -- was viewed as something that wasn't great but worked better than any of the other alternatives.

One question is whether there is an ICANN equivalent needed for Bitcoin. Is Bitcoin email and The Blockchain TCP/IP?

One argument about why it might not be the same is that ICANN fundamentally had to deal with the centralization caused by the name space problem created by domain names. Domain names are essential for the way we think the Internet works and you need a standards body to deal with the conflicts. The solutions to Bitcoin's centralization problems will look nothing like a domain name system (DNS), because although there is currently centralization in the form of mining pools and core development, the protocol is fundamentally designed to need decentralization to function at all. You could argue that the Internet requires a degree of decentralization, but it has so far survived its relationship with ICANN.

One other important function that ICANN provides is a way to discuss changes to the core technology. It also coordinates the policy conversation between the various stakeholders: the technology people, the users, business and governments. The registrars and registries were the main stakeholders since they ran the "business" that feeds ICANN and provides a lot of the infrastructure together with the ISPs.

For Bitcoin it's the miners -- the people and companies that do the computation required to secure the network by producing the cryptographically secure blockchain at the core of Bitcoin -- all in exchange for bitcoin rewards from the network itself. Any technical changes that the developers want to make to Bitcoin will not be adopted unless the miners adopt them, and the developers and the miners have different incentives. It's possible that the miners have some similarities to the registrars and registries, but they are fundamentally different in that they are not customer-facing and don't really care what you think.

As with ICANN, the users do matter and are key for the network effect value of Bitcoin, but without the miners the engine doesn't run. The miners aren't as easy to identify as the registrars and registries and it's unclear how the dynamics of incentives for the miners will develop with the value of bitcoin fluctuating, the difficulty of mining increasing and the transaction fees being market driven. It's possible that they will develop into a community with a user interface and a governance function, but they are mostly hidden and independent for a variety of reasons that are unlikely to change for now. Having said that, one of the first publicly traded Bitcoin companies is a miner.

The core developers are different as well. The founders of the Internet may have been slightly hippy-like, but they were mostly government-funded and fairly government-friendly. Cutting a deal with the Department of Commerce seemed like a pretty good idea to them at the time.

The core Bitcoin developers are cypherpunks who do what they do because they don't trust governments or the global banking system and are trying to build a distributed and autonomous system, one that is impervious to regulation and meddling by anyone at any time. At some level, Bitcoin was designed to not care what regulators think. The miners have an economic interest in Bitcoin having value, since that's what they're paid in, and they care about scale and the network effect, but the miners probably don't care if it's Bitcoin or an alt.coin that ends up winning, as long as their investments in hardware and plant don't disappear before they make a return on their investment.

Regulators clearly have an incentive to influence the rules of the network, but it's unclear whether the core developers really need to care what the regulators think. Having said that, without some sort of buy-in by regulators, it's unlikely to scale or have the mainstream impact that the Internet did.

Very much like the early days of the Internet, when we saw the power of Internet email but hadn't yet invented the Web, we are just imagining the potential uses of concepts such as crypto-equity and smart contracts ... to name just a few.

I believe it's possible that over-regulation could cause Bitcoin or the blockchain to never achieve its full potential and remain a feature of the side-economy, much in the same way that the Tor anonymizing system is extremely valuable to people who really need privacy but not really used by "normal people"... yet.

What helped make the Internet successful was the lack of regulation and the generally inclusive and permissionless nature of innovation. This was driven in large part by free and open source software and the venture capital community. The question I have is whether the fact that we're now talking about "money" and not "content," and that we seem to be innovating at a much higher speed (venture capital investment in Bitcoin is outpacing early Internet investments), the dialog in popular media is growing, and governments are very interested in Bitcoin makes this a completely different game. I think ideas like the five-year moratorium on Bitcoin regulation proposed by US Representative Steve Stockman are a good idea. We really have no idea what this whole thing is going to turn into, so a focus on dialog versus regulation is key.

I also believe that layer unbundling and innovation at each layer, assuming that the other layers will sort themselves out, is a good idea. In other words, exchanges and wallets that are coin-agnostic or experiments with colored coins, side chains and other innovations that are "unbundled" as much as possible allow the learnings and the systems created to survive regardless of exactly how the architecture turns out.

It feels a lot to me like when we were arguing over ethernet and token ring -- for the average user, it doesn't really matter which we end up with as long as in the end it's all interoperable. What's different is that there is more at stake and it's moving really fast, so the shape of failure and the cost of failure might be much more severe than when we were trying to figure out the Internet and a lot more people are watching.

by Joi at January 23, 2015 03:45 AM

Global Voices
Saudi King Abdulla Dies at the Age of 90; Succeeded by Salman, 79
King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia died today at the age of 90. His photograph appears on all Saudi currency. Photo credit: Amira Al Hussaini

King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia died today at the age of 90. His photograph appears on all Saudi currency. Photo credit: Amira Al Hussaini

After weeks of speculation, Saudi Arabia today [January 23, 2015] announced the death of King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz, 90, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Abdulla came to power in August 2005, after the death of his half-brother Fahad bin Abdulaziz, and is now succeeded by his other brother Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is 79. And their other brother Muqrin has been named Crown Prince. They are all the sons of King Abdulaziz, who founded Saudi Arabia in 1932, and have been ascending the throne in succession over the years. Abdulaziz had 45 sons of whom 36 survived to adulthood and had children of their own. Egyptian Amro Ali shares this infographic which shows the “ever shrinking old generations of Saudi kings in waiting.”

Online, citizens of the world were quick to share their two cents. Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran notes how the now King Salman's bio on Twitter has changed to reflect his new position:

There was also a confusion about the deceased King and his new successor's ages. From the UAE, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla tweeted:

And many were not kind to news of Abdulla's dead. This Twitter user shared this meme:

But there were also Saudis sad over their King's demise. This Twitter user writes:

Another user writes:

And the mourning continues:

From Egypt, The Rock was quick to jump on the mouners bandwagon, thanking the Saudi monarch for his services to Egypt:

Thousands of messages of condolence continue to pour in with prayer for mercy for his soul.

by Amira Al Hussaini at January 23, 2015 02:44 AM

The Secret Language of Turkey's LGBT Community
A drawing of Sevval Kilic by Mine Bethet. Credit: Courtesy of Mine Bethet. Published with PRI's permission.

A drawing of Sevval Kilic by Mine Bethet. Credit: Courtesy of Mine Bethet. Published with PRI's permission.

This article and a radio report by Dalia Mortada for The World in Words originally appeared on on January 14, 2015 and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Sevval Kilic is a couple of inches shy of six feet. Her hair, various shades of light brown, rests at the middle of her back, and her eyes, outlined by long lashes, look like perfectly drawn almonds.

She has one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, and it’s infectious. She looks much younger than her 40 years, and she likes to reminisce about the good old days when she made good money.

“In my day,” she reminisces, “I was shopping. I was shopping as hell … my shoes, just my shoes …” she trails off, giggling. That was in the 1990s, when Sevval lived in a neighborhood notorious for its unregistered brothels. She was 19 when she moved in.

Today, the quiet lane in central Istanbul looks much like it did in the 90s. But the sounds that fill the street are completely different.

A lady washing her windows on the third floor takes a break to chat with a neighbor hollering hello from the street. It’s not, as it once was, packed with guys taking their pick of sexual adventures for the night. No catcalls descend from the windows like they did a couple of decades ago, like the kind of catcall Sevval used to attract clients: “Psh psh, psh psh — this is the way,” Sevval explains, “or sfoot sfoot.” Just a small, subtle sound to catch a guy’s attention.

In Turkey, prostitution is legal with a license and state-run brothels have an intense registration process. But Sevval and her colleagues were not eligible: The state did not, and still does not, accept transitioning women or gay men. Sevval had not completed her transition to becoming a woman when she signed up for her brothel.

Ulker St in Istanbul used to be part of a red-light district. The streetwalkers have long since moved on. Credit: Dalia Mortada. Published with PRI's permission

Ulker St in Istanbul used to be part of a red-light district. The streetwalkers have long since moved on. Credit: Dalia Mortada. Published with PRI's permission

In fact, she arrived with just her boy clothes. One of the more experienced women took her under her wing. “She took care of me like a real mom. She washed me, she fed me, she dressed me, she taught me everything about working, about secrecy,” she says. Secrecy included using a secret slang, or as linguists call it, an argot, called Lubunca.

Lubunca is how Sevval and her colleagues talked to each other about their work in front of clients or the cops. It uses Turkish sentences and grammar, but certain words are replaced. The words Sevval used were related to her work. There are terms for hair and make-up, sex positions and different types of clients. “Let's say there's a rich customer and the girl in the front apartment yells, ‘It's a hundred dollar customer!' That’s bir but baari, Sevval explains.

Bir is the Turkish word for “one” and “but” means thigh or rump, like a large cut of meat. “Bari” is like saying “at least.” These are all Turkish words, but the way they’re strung together means you wouldn’t understand unless you knew Lubunca.

Other words in the slang come from different languages. “Some of the core elements of Lubunca come from other minority languages that haven't been spoken very much for quite some time,” Nicholas Kontovas explains. Kontovas is a socio-historical linguist who has studied the origins of Lubunca. He explains that most of the words come from Romani — the language of ethnic Roma, or gypsies, who live in Turkey.

There are words from Greek, Kurdish and Bulgarian, too. Kontovas explains that people from these communities have, to a greater or lesser extent, been outcasts in Turkish society, so they tend to live in the same city neighborhoods. That’s how Lubunca picked up its foreign feel.

Kontovas says the words from Lubunca are intimately tied to these neighborhoods and to meeting spots within those neighborhoods. The Turkish word for an Ottoman style bathhouse, for example, is hamam. In Lubunca, it’s tato which comes from the Romani word for warm. “The fact that there's a word for hamam is pretty telling. The queer slang varieties that were used beforehand, at least what is recorded, were predominantly used in hamams,” which is where male sex work took place during the Ottoman empire, Kontovas says.

Of course, Lubunca has evolved. The terms for sex organs and positions get pretty creative — and are not appropriate for publishing. Terms for flirting are pretty crafty, too. “Badem alikmak, which is also to eye up. Badem, meaning almond, obviously in reference to shape of the eye,” Kontovas describes. “There's another thing that's great, which is badem sekeri, which is ‘almond candy,’ which is eye candy,” he adds.

It is quite similar to Polari — the British gay argot that made it into the mainstream in the 1960s, back when being gay was still criminal in the UK. An example of Polari would be: “Bona to vada your dolly old eek.” That means “Nice to see your pretty face.”Eventually, after homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain, the argot dropped out of fashion. Kontovas says, “The use of Polari started to decline so much so people had to go and record it and go into archives and look into recordings and ask older members of the community.”As more people use Lubunca, it’s possible that it, too, could fade away like Polari, but that seems unlikely. Like Polari, Lubunca exists because it needs to: Not only is gay and trans sex work likely to stay illegal, but Lubunca’s use has grown in recent years. More members of the LGBT community — especially gay men — have adopted the argot. Sometimes they use it to show off — to declare they are part of the gay community while still keeping it a secret in public. And being trans or a sex worker can even be looked down upon within the LGBT community.Turgay Bayindir, for example, came out as gay in college, but he knew nothing about the community. He heard his new friends using Lubunca for fun, but he did not get it. “At first I was uncomfortable, especially because it was associated with trans-women who are sex workers,” Turgay recalls, saying he considered it demeaning. But he got over his bias after he actually learned more about Lubunca and why certain people need to use it.The word “lubunya” is how gay men and trans women often describe themselves — and it has crept into Turgay’s vocabulary. He says it might not be such a bad thing if the secret language becomes a little less secret. “I think in general exposure would be good and also it would make the lubunya community less scary to the public when they start learning about it,” he says.Still, because certain words have become so mainstream, they are no longer used in the sex work community. Sevval, who left sex work to become an activist after her gender reassignment surgery, says she doesn’t recognize a lot of the words anymore. “Girls invented some new words — even I don’t understand them. In 2015, girls speak something else,” she says. “It evolves.”Perhaps society will evolve too, so that Lubunca can be used for fun and not just because it is necessary.

The World in Words podcast is on Facebook and iTunes.

National Endowment for the Humanities

With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities

by Public Radio International at January 23, 2015 02:30 AM

January 22, 2015

Global Voices Advocacy
WhatsApp, Line and Tango in Jeopardy in Iran, As President and Judiciary Clash

The future of the messaging services WhatsApp, Line, and Tango has become uncertain in Iran since the national judiciary announced a decision to filter the three apps. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is refusing to comment on a January 7 decision.

According to reports by Iran's official state news agency, the judiciary's decision was meant to enter force immediately after it was announced on January 7. Iran's judiciary is independent from the president's office, reporting only to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomenei. 

In a public statement on January 17, Culture Minister Ali Jannati refused to say if the government planned to implement the ban on the three messaging services, but did confirm that they currently remain accessible to Internet users in Iran. Jannati also reiterated President Hassan Rouhani's position on the issue, saying Iranians should have free access to the messaging services, particularly in light of their popularity.

WhatsApp, Line, and Tango provide Iranians with an inexpensive means of circumventing state-controlled telephone and messaging services, connecting Iranians with each other and people abroad. 

Tehran’s Chief Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi acknowledged that the government and the Judiciary do not agree about filtering the applications, but he confirmed that police will implement the judiciary's ruling either way. Mehr News reported that the judiciary issued implementation orders to the Ministry of ICT, but officials have put the orders on hold until the government and judiciary are able to come to an agreement.  

According to Fars news agency, Jannati stated: “we have to use smart-filtering to rid these applications of unlawful content, however blocking these applications entirely would be wrong.” 

Discussions regarding “smart-filtering” have been ongoing in Iran. Given the technological obstacles to content-based filtering, however, such an approach wouldn't likely resolve the current conflict between Iran's warring bureaucracies. Despite blocks on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook in Iran, many Iranians bypass these controls using proxy-servers and other circumvention tools.

by Mahsa Alimardani at January 22, 2015 11:29 PM

Global Voices
Caribbean Perspectives on the Charlie Hebdo Free Speech vs. Intolerance Debate
The "Je Suis Charlie" slogan, uploaded by flickr user Clément Belleudy; used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

The “Je Suis Charlie” slogan, uploaded by Flickr user Clément Belleudy; used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

The murder of 12 people, including police officers and journalists, earlier this month at the Paris offices of the irreverent satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is still resonating across the world. Two Caribbean bloggers, one from Jamaica and the other based in Bermuda, have shared their perspectives on the tragedy and religious extremism in general.

Carolyn Joy Cooper, who blogs at Jamaica Woman Tongue, was actually in Paris at the time of the attack, ruminating on European attitudes towards other cultures — something that seemed to take on new significance after she heard about the Charlie Hebdo killings on the news later that day:

For most of the day, I was playing tourist at the Louvre museum. I visited the Egyptian Antiquities galleries. [...]

At the Louvre, Europe is clearly the centre of the world. This is understandable. What is less acceptable is the way the rest of the world is represented. In the Egyptian collection, I was struck by the following text which I’ve translated: ‘The Egyptian slept on a low bed, even on the floor, the head resting on a wooden support, as is still done in some countries of Africa.’

The peculiar phrase, ‘in some countries of Africa', seems to imply that Egypt is not in Africa. If it were, ‘other’ would have been used instead of ‘some’.

The peculiarity of phrase was reinforced in her mind after a BBC report curiously referred to the “flawless French” of the perpetrators, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were of Alergian descent. Cooper noted:

In other words, they didn’t sound like foreigners. Language continues to be seen as a marker of identity. But it is sometimes quite unreliable. Despite the flawless French of the Kouachi brothers, they were unquestionably alienated from mainstream French culture. Though born in France, they had a fatal flaw. Their home culture was not French. Their religion was not Catholicism; it was Islam. And they were radical Islamists at that.

Making the connection between their differences and mainstream French culture, she had an interesting take on the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan that became symbolic of the tragedy:

In this formula, the collective ‘I’ is the French nation united against an unstated, but clearly implied, ‘you': those outsiders who do not share the normative values of French culture.

Furthermore, to assert that ‘I am Charlie’ is to claim freedom of expression, particularly the cutting art of satire, as an essential constituent of French national identity. The capacity to laugh at one’s own weaknesses and that of others is at the heart of satire. Nothing – no one and no god – is sacred. In effect, failure to pass the satire test means failure to become French.

In Bermuda, Breezeblog was struck not only by the Charlie Hebdo killings, but also “by news of the horrifying massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the public flogging of activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia“, saying:

My emotions have run the gamut from shock and outrage to fear and defiance. It has made me question what that freedom really means to me and what my values and beliefs are. As a former journalist, I have had conflicted feelings about freedom of speech and the role of the media. Like many others I was quick to change my Facebook profile to ‘Je Suis Charlie’ in solidarity. However after the last few days of debating, reading and watching the deluge of coverage, I’m inclined to change it to a more nuanced ‘avec Charlie'.

The author of “Infidel“, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who Breezeblog cites in his post, is of the opinion that freedom of speech does not have limits, noting that “in the press, in the universities, in the schools, we have to make sure that Muslim immigrants who come to the West understand that our rules protect satirists from jihadists, and not the other way round.” Carolyn Joy Cooper addressed this point in her own post, saying:

Devout Muslims who insist that Allah must not be mocked alienate themselves from their adopted homeland. They fight their god’s battles and they take no prisoners. One of the most insightful condemnations of the murders came from a representative of the Muslim community in London who was interviewed by the BBC. I’m so sorry I didn’t catch his name. He asserted that it is antiquated ideologies that need to be murdered, not journalists.

But Breezeblog called out a double standard, saying:

Poking fun at Muslims is considered freedom of speech. Satire of Israel is anti-Semitic.

He cited figures which suggested that “around 40 percent of Muslims in European countries want to live under sharia law [...] The figure is reportedly higher among 16-24 year olds, many of whom want Western countries to become Islamic states.” But then, in referring to the oft-quoted ideal to defend freedom of speech – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” — he makes the point that “we can no longer afford to tolerate intolerance”.

Cooper agreed, suggesting that the Charlie Hebdo narrative could be “seen more positively as an opportunity to rethink what we consider to be natural and normative”:

Can France begin to conceive the nation as fundamentally multicultural, making space for marginalised communities?

by Flora Thomas at January 22, 2015 05:21 PM

Lawrence Lessig
(14 year old) Ella speaking at #CU5 rally in NH

Ella gave one of the most moving talks at the #NHRebellion rally on the Capitol Plaza in Concord….

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at January 22, 2015 05:11 PM

(14 year old) Ella speaking at #CU5 rally in NH

Ella gave one of the most moving talks at the #NHRebellion rally on the Capitol Plaza in Concord….

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at January 22, 2015 05:11 PM

Jim Rubens on the corrupting influence of money

Republican Jim Rubens, candidate for Senate, speaking at the #NHRebellion January 21 rally in front…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at January 22, 2015 04:53 PM

DML Central
Teaching Urban Digital Literacy Outside School, Part 1
Teaching Urban Digital Literacy Outside Schools Blog Image

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series highlighting different programs that teach digital literacy outside of school.

Under the auspices of the Mayor’s Office of New York City, Global Partners Junior is an “online international exchange program that connects New York City youth ages 9-12 with their peers around the world.” It also is devoted to teaching digital fluency skills for the transnational communication made possible by the Internet. Students “research facts about their communities and international cities, exchange messages on a password-protected website, and share multimedia projects and video greetings.”

Partner cities include Accra, Berlin, Biên Hòa, Changwon, Copenhagen, The Hague, Hamburg, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lima, London, Manchester, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, Paris, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver and Warsaw. A three-minute video explains the program. 

One of the junior co-teachers featured in the video is Brown University doctoral student Lindsay Zackeroff, who was an instructor in the latest iteration of the program Urban Stages, which focuses on theater production and design. Zackeroff sat down for an interview with DML Central to talk about her experience working with young people at different community centers in New York City. She explained that many metropolitan parks and recreation services were “starting to develop computer labs that offer a variety of often cutting-edge digital resources” so that “technological literacy for everyone in the community” can be served with everything from MacBooks to digital SLR cameras and curricula that include creating comics and animations. She described digital literacy courses as “some of the most coveted classes, especially for teens and provided a “great place to hang out.” (Mimi Ito’s work on teens hanging out in Hanging Out, Messing Out, and Geeking Out describes more of this behavior.)

When asked how facilities and computer literacy paradigms among community centers differed, Zackeroff explained: “I worked mainly at two different centers, and I also substituted at a third center at Harlem.” She was the head teacher at the Herbert Von King Cultural Arts Center at Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.

"The Von King Cultural Arts Center supported the most incredible theater and performance programs I had ever seen,” she said. “Von King also had a huge stage that the kids easily filled. The students already had amazing dance abilities, could sing and write songs, and could act for the stage. And, they were only 6-12 years old! Because theater and performance were the kids' strengths, I matched the curriculum to think about the summer's theme, ‘Urban Stages.’ We did a lot of video correspondences, because they knew how to film on iPads, iPods, phones, and hand-held devices, and it gave them a chance to exercise their creative freedom. The portion that required the computer was a bit trickier. The computer lab was a small cement room that got very hot during the summer. The Macs did not work, and only PCs were available. Only a few of my students were really proficient in typing; most needed to work with partners to do their blog entries. For a lot of kids, it was just that they are so young, and they learn typing on touch screens, not computer keyboards. But for others, it wasn’t just that they were still working out spelling; it was the fact that they couldn’t type yet. It was tremendous how the kids learned to type just from blogging with the Global Partners Jr. curriculum."

In contrast, she described Hamilton Fish Recreation Center in the Lower East Side as “a remarkably well-equipped lab. They had pretty much everything you would need for creating student films, starting with 20-25 Mac desktops from within the last two to three years and ton of software for their creative output that was very sophisticated and had cameras and tripods as well as programs such as Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut. A lot of the instruction was about familiarization with software.” 

She characterized the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center in Harlem as “right in the middle. They had all working computers, but I don’t know about their cameras.” She described it as the computer lab with the “most community” because “people who weren’t enrolled in the classes just came in to use the computers. A lot of them were people making music.”

When asked about teaching netiquette, she said it could be difficult because there was a “varying set of skills at the different sites. At Von King they would often respond to blogs as if they already had a conversation going without introducing themselves or providing context, like saying what country they were from.” 

Time to spend on netiquette also depended on class size. “Hamilton Fish had a much smaller class with five rather than 20 students. I had time to teach them to introduce themselves over the blog, to include pictures and to describe their pictures, and to ask questions that would prompt a further discussion,” she said.

“There weren’t a ton of language barriers because it was an English-language program. There were times they received responses to blog posts from students who had obviously had English as a second language.” 

Yet, she described an egalitarian spirit around linguistic diversity. “We often discussed what other languages the kids spoke. Almost all of the kids I had spoke another language: Spanish, French and Creole. They had familiarity with many different languages in their community around them.”

Zackeroff argued that such “virtual pen pal” programs could be made more effective if the emphasis included “sharing different media other than writing.” Giving younger children too much to read could be difficult in the summer and could make it challenging to “keep the energy up.” She suggested that writing activities could be tied to multimodal composition, such as “writing a script for a video.”

As someone interested in questions of embodiment, Zackeroff said that “the global theater emphasis was trying to push research skills and cultivating those research skills. Students used a lot of YouTube and Google search to discover information about theater traditions, mostly contemporary. At Von King, all the students were really into dance. Blogging and writing on the computer became secondary to the dancing. "They also liked to record and share material and see their family's reactions more than sharing with a faceless virtual pen pal. As the partner cities started to share more and more photos and videos, they saw their pen pals come to life as well and really enjoyed watching their correspondence flourish. It was a way of archiving their summer and recording it for them. Hamilton Fish loved the blogging, correspondences, and cultivating new friendships. Theater was a bit more secondary; they were often looking to the theater to bring a new dimension to their blogs. Each Global Partners Jr. site, I would say, found embodiment in different places. I think their understanding of embodiment and technology was tied to both their technological resources and passion for performance.”

DML Central has profiled a number of experimental practitioners working with digital performance, including Micha Cárdenas, Emily Roxworthy, and Wayne Yang. When asked about her role models for rethinking digital performance and literacy, Zackeroff  praised the work of Shana Moulton and Meredith Monk

As someone who identifies as a feminist, Zackeroff explained that “my personal attachment to feminism is through the body, through dance, and through choreography. I see blogging and virtual pen pals as a kind of dance in which different people negotiate ambiguous spaces. Sharing performances online shows how students can make work and exhibit this work without being pressured by the things they see on YouTube.”

Photos by Lindsay Zackeroff

by mcruz at January 22, 2015 03:42 PM

Global Voices
A Musical Feast: Puerto Rico Indie's List of the Best 14 Albums of 2014
"The Best 14 Albums of 2014." Image from Puerto Rico Indie.

“The Best 14 Albums of 2014.” Image from Puerto Rico Indie.

Here is a list of the best albums of 2014, originally published by the author on his blog

When I was little I used to carefully study the year-end lists submitted by music magazines that arrived at the nearest pharmacy. Whether it was Spin or Rolling Stone or others, they provided me with one last opportunity to find out the best albums that I had missed during the year -which by then were most of its recommendations. Then, I became familiar with the names of those listed artists and the covers of their albums —years later, I would be looking for some of these classics to add to my collection.

Today, I check the listings of excessive numbers of international media, sometimes finding the same albums reorganized in a different order, with occasional changes or additions to give some character to the selection. These differences are precisely those that are looked for by those of us who have a voracious musical appetite; for discovering new music, there is no worse enemy than consensus.

That is the use of an exercise like this, although the overwhelming abundance of the Internet is gradually stealing its true charm. It is not a prize for artists -there are enough of these. Nor is it to put an end to the year. Perhaps it will serve to ignite discussion among fans and the obsessive —and haters and hipsters and trolls, and those who want to join in from any corner of the Internet. But above all, I think of the year-end lists as a service to curious ears.

That's why I have encouraged myself to share, for the fifth consecutive year, my favorite albums of the independent scene in Puerto Rico, with the hope that it serves as a guide to those who do not follow it so closely or just found out about it. Consider it a starting point for the discovery and discussion, and an open invitation to send me your recommendations.

14. Dada Berlín – Lickety Split EP


 2014 ushered in a wave of female voices within punk music –some of them making their debut in the circuit, other veteran voices retaking their career with new energy– from Perfect Pussy to Ex Hex and from White Lung to The Muffs. Puerto Rico is not far behind: Dada Berlín broke into El Local, Nuestro Son and Club 77 thanks to the power and kinetic presence of their vocalist Pequeña Vera, and a handful of songs, some as sharp as necessary.

Fortunately these songs were recorded on a shared album alongside Hungary Hippos under the name of Lickety Split EP. Every time the young singer uncovers the chorus of “Siete/trece”, we live again one of the most cathartic moments captured on a song this year, in which she steals the words from the object of her criticism: “I will spill blood on your pretty face.” Definitely a talent to follow in the coming year.


13. International Dub Ambassadors – Dub Ambassador


The International Dub Ambassadors rocketed to stardom this year after they were selected to open the massive concert that Calle 13 celebrated in early December as the final date of their Multi_Viral tour, and again the next day, when the professor Inés Quiles dedicated airtime on her radio program Si No lo Digo Reviento to mark the group as “unfit” of having played in front of that audience. What was her problem with Ambassadors Dub? “It seemed that there was a kind of worship, an altar, a church to worship marijuana,” said the professor.

So now you know, if you seek to worship marijuana, this album comes with the highest recommendation of Inés Quiles. And if you want to listen a good record of classic style dub reggae, played by musicians of the highest caliber, then you have our additional recommendation.


12. A Flying Dodo Society – First Sighting


A Flying Dodo Society achieved their first installment of songs with this EP, released just before moving to Brooklyn, where I suppose that they were greeted with open arms and larger audiences, more used to Belle & Sebastian’s folk-pop than most boricuas*.

The duo, composed of Federico Ausbury and Maira Vergara, has created a wonderful world inhabited by their songs, full of melody and sing-alongs, giving a participative character (which the group was able to translate during their live show) to moments that often sound intimate and revealing. Among the highlight songs of the EP are “We Ate the Sun” and “Cake in July”, both funny, complex and full of a contagious energy that dug a special space for the group in many of our hearts.

*Another name for Puerto Ricans


11. La Futura Prole – EP


Originally from San Germán, La Futura Prole is a young band that on their first EP shows great handling of their own musical identity —a mixture of elements of blues, jazz and progressive rock, surf, punk and even carnival touches of polka. All this hodgepodge allows the quartet to explore different musical avenues without being tied to conventional song structures; however, we can perceive an affinity for melody that places the band on more pop than experimental trails. Among the six songs on the EP, “El Himno” and “Los Muñequitos” stand out, although in general there is not much to complain about here.



10. El S. – El S.eis


Samuel Vidal Quintero, the talented composer and keyboardist of the beloved salsa orchestra, El Macabeo, is also responsible for one of the most exciting hip hop albums of the year. El S.eis is his sixth and most successful album under the stage name El S.

With a good dose of collaborations and excellent tracks, “el S.eis” is both a celebration and a testament of how Quintero has matured as an artist. “No Me Mires” is a fun but politically charged song in which El S. and rapper EBRS tell us about the experience of being constantly judged by their appearance. Likewise, the album alternates between songs spanning the jangueo*, as “Pasta y Queso” and “Pacotilla”, and more confessional and dramatic songs like “Mario Bro” and “Sangre X Sangre”.

*To hang out


9. Fantasmes – Thralls to Strange Witchcraft


Thralls to Strange Witchcraft, the fourth album by Fantasmes, continues the exploration of atmospheric sounds into psychedelia, sometimes using the Velvets as a roadmap and taking time to engage in a groove to slowly expand that sound to new horizons. The result is mysterious, sometimes baffling, sometimes soporific, sometimes sensual.

Through these four songs, the band proves once again that they are masters of the record studio, looking for an ascetic perfection that we will be more than happy to enjoy once they achieve it. Bonus points for one of the best combinations of title and cover in a local release.



8. Los Vigilantes – Al Fin


After an exhaustive and intense European tour, the garage-rock group Los Vigilantes returned to Puerto Rico with a new album under its arm. Appropriately titled Al Fin, it perfectly reflects the group’s melodic surf punk: as contagious as melancholic, it makes you shake your body to get undressed and to celebrate too.

Towards the center of the album Los Vigilantes hide the best run of songs that they have ever shared: “Pobre niña,” which includes a fabulous sax solo by Cadillac and the honorary boricua, Sergio Rotman; the sticky and sweet and sour “Ahí ya no estoy”, the second single from the album; and “Todo me da igual” with its chorus of “pa-pa-pa-pa-pas” designed for drunk singing with your friends.


7. Sr. Langosta – Sr. Langosta


The Puerto Rican “indie” scene usually leans more towards rock sub-genres like Punk, Metal, Garage, Pop and Experimental, so it is well worth it to pay attention when a band like Sr. Langosta arises pushing our limits and moving the audience in new directions. Led by guitarist Jorge Andrés Ferreras, the trio of Acid Jazz and Funk revealed in his debut high technical musical skills with more playful trends, with a larger band of musicians willing to merge Caribbean and Latin rhythms with the influence of Classic Rock heroes like Jimi Hendrix. The production includes versions of the classics “Babe I'm gonna leave you” and “Machine Gun”, and Ferreras’ original compositions, including “Doido” a light guitar walk in the sun, shameless, and the perfect entry point to this excellent first production of the group.


6. Los Wálters – Verano Panorámico


Los Wálters are both one of the most trusted and least pretentious bands on the scene. Since the arrival of their debut EP in 2011 they have shown total control of a musical concept fully developed, completed with a strong and convincing visual identity: in summary, Los Wálters want you to dance and have a great time together. In Verano Panorámico, the group exposes their ambition behind all the dancing, having created a concept album (with a photographic essay) about giving a tour of the island, going for a walk in its fields, beaches and, yes, its developments too. The group’s energy is contagious, even when melancholy notes peek into the mix – of course, not everything is celebration and excitement in the modern Puerto Rico, but Los Wálters invite us to remember the paradisiac qualities of our environment.


5. Piegrande – Gallos Laser


Piegrande is one of several projects involving the talent of guitarist Kristian Prieto, one of the secret weapons of Alegría Rampante, also known for his solo project, Harry Rag. Gallos Laser ["cool title, bro" -ed] is the second installment of his instrumental rock trio, which includes Eden Cruz (drums) and Christian Robledo (bass) as rhythmic base, adding the participation of trumpeter Gabriel Beauchamp from Orquesta El Macabeo on songs like the delicious first single “Pro Zack Morris” and the frantic “Trapecista”.

Piegrande achieves with his music an imaginative mix of rock, jazz and prog, full of life and endowed with an adventurous spirit. It is easy to imagine actors (or the same band) doing twirls and stunts when listening to it.


4. Buscabulla – EP


Buscabulla was undoubtedly the musical revelation of 2014. When we invited them to play their first show in Puerto Rico just over a year ago, surely many doubted the choice —they had two or three original songs by then, but since the beginning it was evident that Raquel Berríos and Luis Alfredo Del Valle had found a special magic.

2014 was very generous with the duo in terms of press and exposure, and after completing this EP with the help of star producer Dev Hynes (Blood Orange, Solange), they managed to attract the attention of French label Kitsuné, who was commissioned to digitally distribute it. And it's no wonder, because, as cover letter or display, the four themes that compose it —and especially the single “Caer”— show a level of musical sophistication that we rarely perceive in an emerging project.


3. Various Artists – Indie Martin


People say that the best ideas tend to sound as crazy as perfect, and a compilation of covers of Ricky Martin by artists from the independent scene certainly fits the description. Indie Martin served as an excuse to invite some of our favorite bands to explore their pop side, but we never imagined how much we would enjoy diving headfirst into the commercial waters of Puerto Rican radio. 

It is clear in the genuine joy that Las Acevedo transmit in their version of “She Bangs”, on the personal reading that Ardnaxela does to “La copa de la vida”, in the energy channeled by The Wálters and Los Nadie —each one in his own way— to modernize “Dime Que Me Quieres”, and the feeling that overflows from the interpretation of “Bella” by Stonetape. And so with the 16 songs that compose the whole Indie Martin. The result is not merely a tribute to the star, who for decades has made us shake our bon-bons or mourn with his wrist-cutting ballads, but a love letter to music, an acknowledgment that it unites us and compelling evidence of the musical talent that lies in our island —gradually more exposed to and recognized by the world.


2. AJ Dávila – Terror Amor / Beibi


AJ Dávila y Terror Amor


At first listen, Terror Amor and Beibi seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. While Terror Amor showed songs with a more polished, more thought out and conceptualized production, Beibi is an exercise in lo-fi, with a distorted sound, anchored more in punk and grunge, with hints of psychedelia, and those voices passed through a filter of darkness that have become the signature of AJ Dávila and Terror Amor. Moreover, the former was promoted to a mostly Latin American audience, while the second was sold directly to an Anglo-Saxon audience.

Those differences in perception and possible audience, however, probably have more to do with matters of record labels and the black magic of musical marketing than with anything else —because if it comes to songs, Terror Amor and Beibi are two sides of the same coin. Despite their superficial differences, which reveals the true genius of AJ, a musician-boxer who does not need gloves or coaches on his corner to throw punch after punch after punch after punch…


1. Campo-Formio – Here comes… Campo-Formio!


The first full-length album of our favorite power-trioCampo-Formio, as an introduction, announced with its title the arrival of the band, when in fact, for those who follow the local scene closely, it was a fulfilled promise. Over the four memorable EPs —edited under its own label, Dead Mofongo Records —Fernando Quintero (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ricardo Pérez (bass) and Diego Bernal (drums) developed a muscular rock songbook, agile but heavy, attractive and inviting —and above all original— turning anxiety, frustration and neglect of contemporary boricua youth into a frantic attack that left some scratching their heads and others ready to join the cult.

In Here comes… Campo Formio!, the trio pulls its musical influences into new territories, building with the history of punk and post their own vocabulary of sounds, portraying with them a world full of bad milk brats, punks, thugs and bastards —each song a polaroid of one of these reprehensible characters, either the “Dr. Rakún”, the “Rata Azul”, “Brutus”, the “Barón Barón” and even the ascetic monk “Pelagius”. The bleak lyrical content is balanced by moments of real beauty —guitars taking flight at the end of “Teenage Wrinkles”, the instrumental passages of “Pelagius” —that help to round out the album content and nail down its classical album structure.

Here comes… Campo Formio! lends itself to be heard —somewhat anachronically—  from start to finish, designed with attention to detail as an experience that is better appreciated in its double vinyl edition, with a production as polished as the talent of its three musicians. While Diego and Ricardo show again their rhythmic prowess, both willingly surrendering themselves to their shaft and motor roles, Fernando is documented along these 12 songs as one of the most versatile and interesting vocalists in the Iberoamerican scene.

So, if you were not already aware, Campo-Formio arrived. And to them we say: Thank you for coming!


And 6 More…

…that also deserve your attention.

2014-Calle13-Multiviral-200Calle 13Multi_Viral

The fifth album in Calle 13’s discography and the first under his own independent record label —El Abismo— works as a more existential kind of sequel and a little more universal concerns than the now classic Entren Los Que Quieran (2010), and includes among its genre experiments a couple of outstanding songs (“Adentro” and “Multi_Viral”) in the group’s discography. | Spotify



2014-EnriqueVelez-200Enrique VélezInterpreta… EPs

And now, something a little different: Enrique Vélez, guitarist and leader of the tropical music project Guateke, returns with a series of EPs in which he interprets scores composed by the masters Morel-Campos, Schubert, Bach and Chilesotti on his acoustic guitar. Directed by the talented producer Hector “Stonetape” Hernandez, these recordings show great appreciation for the history of music, far beyond the local scene. | Download 


Jamsha’s fourth “cyber-album” stays true to the formula established by the reggaetonero with his buddy and producer, Eggie Ruz: funny, irreverent, uncouth and armed with an arsenal of classic styles, retaken with affection by two scholars of the history of the underground. Decades ago, Ruben DJ told us about his grandmother, and now it's up to Jamsha to complain about “The potholes on the road”. | Download


2014-Recluso-FaniaBeats-200ReclusoFania Beats

One of the most prolific hip hop artists within the local scene, Recluso focused on producing sets of beats during 2014, adding two additional volumes to his series of the Tabla Periódica, another installment of his Mango Sound System, a collaborative album with the cuatro player Mario Cancel and this —our favorite of the bunch—, a tribute to Fania Records’ music. | Download 


2014-Samalot-200SamalotLuz EP
Samalot delivered a handful of songs in 2014, including this small but powerful EP, produced by Stonetape. The former member of the experimental quartet tachdé, continues the spiritual exploration that began on his first solo work, i n n e r, and now projects from the inside out with a spectrum of environmental sounds, tribal drums and studio experiments. | Download



Similar turned out to be a somewhat restless project, with several significant changes to its lineup. This is also the case with Reverso, the product of a band in transition, seeking to forge new paths for its vision of instrumental and experimental rock —but catchy and accessible too. With special attention on the production, the group shows us a more muscular and progressive side. | Download 



Sharing new music in 2014 too:
Alegría Rampante • Álvaro Díaz • Balún • Bando • Bodega Satellite • Calma Carmona • Cardigan Academy • Cezgo • D-Cent Jerks • Diana Fuentes • Eden Cruz • fAi • Former Astronauts • Habish • Harry Rag • Hungary Hippos • Índigo • Isaac Álvarez • Jean Nada • Jorge Chafey • Juan Pablo Díaz • Juventud Crasa • Kitsch • La Experiencia de Toñito Cabanilla$$$ • La Academia • Las Cucarachas • Los Lácteos • Los Manglers • Los Nadie • Los Nervios • Los Pepiniyoz • Lust Era • Ma Catharsis Et La Mort • MadSkeptic • Matotumba • Mesmer • Misa E’ Gallo • Mr. Peligro • Nébula • Nosotro • Nutopía • Ongo • Piélago • Pirulo Y La Tribu • Prettiest Eyes • Pulpo • Rebecca Kill • Robertito Chong • Surge • The Difficult • Turista • Tus Ídolos • Un final Fatal • UnochoSkeptic • Woebe Guns
The 13 albums of 2013 | The 12 albums of 2012 | The 11 albums of 2011 | The 10 albums of 2010

by Diana Navarrete at January 22, 2015 02:29 PM

Myanmar's Nationalist Monk Attacks UN Envoy in His Speech

The leader of the Myanmar's nationalist 969 Movement made a caustic remark on the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. The video of the monk insulting the UN envoy has gone viral and became a much discussed topic in Myanmar.

The video of the speech was shared by the Democratic Voice of Burmese [Warning: The video contains offensive language.]

The 969 Movement is a Buddhist nationalist movement in Myanmar that has gained popularity among the people over the past two years. It is led by the controversial icon, Wirathu, who was named “The Face of Buddhist Terror” by Time Magazine. Most recently, the movement has tried to pass a controversial bill that would impose serious restrictions on inter-faith marriages in the country.

The speech was made during a protest, in time for the second trip of the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar. During her first visit, she issued statement of concern about the situation of the Rohingya people living inside refugee camps in Myanmar. Rohinyas are mostly Muslims living in Myanmar and other parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The Myanmar government recognizes them as illegal immigrants and they are not even considered as an ethnic minority.

Some Burmese Buddhists believe that Rohingyas and other Muslims are plotting to dominate Myanmar, which has a predominantly Buddhist population. In recent years, violent clashes between Muslim and Buddhist groups have displaced thousands of residents in the country, especially in the Rakhine state.

Ye Htut, the Presidential Spokesperson and Minister of Information, thought that the Buddhist monks should have focused on the topic of peace. He said

Personally, I believe that Buddhist monks and any other religious leaders should recite speeches reflecting compassion, love, empathy and good ethics.

U Pandavunsa, a famous monk in the country, said that using inflammatory language is against the code of ethnics of Buddhist monks:

According to our code of ethics, a member of our clergy cannot use his hands to bring other people to harm, not to mention curse or badmouth or insult them. Everybody understands that a monk should be a man of loving kindness. The International community will look down on Buddhism for what he said.

Maung Zarni, a political analyst, shared his thoughts about Ms. Yanghee Lee being addressed in this way:

In the eyes of ‪#‎Myanmar‬ Nazis in monk's Saffron robe, UN human rights investigator and law professor is a ‘whore'! For she supports the rights of ‪#‎Rohingya‬ to self-identity, to a nationality and to be treated as humans.

Myo Lwin (Demo Fatty), an anonymous Facebook personality and whistle-blower, was concerned about the impression that the world would now have about Myanmar's Buddhism:

Now it is widespread in the international news. Even swearing a women “prostitute” is too much. Now the face of our people, our country, and our religion is going down the drain.

This protest and the speech come as the latest in the anti-Muslim movement initiated by the 969. Wirathu, however, defended his decision to attack the UN envoy:

That was the harshest word (I could think of), so I used it. If I could find a harsher word, I would have used it. It is nothing compared to what she did to our country.

Wirathu believes the UN rapporteur has no right to portray Myanmar in a negative light by commenting about the situation of the Rohingya refugees, insisting that Rohingyas has no legitimacy to remain in the country.

The Myanmar government announced that it will investigate the speech of Wirathu against the UN rapporteur.

by Thant Sin at January 22, 2015 02:26 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Venezuelans Question Disappearing Internet Service


Venezuela web outage map by Acceso Libre, used with permission.

Venezuela web outage map by Acceso Libre, used with permission.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz, Weiping Li, Hae-in Lim, Sonia Roubini and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report. 

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in Venezuela, where Internet users in multiple provinces reported in high volume that they were unable to get online through CANTV, the nation’s leading Internet service provider, for approximately 12 hours between Jan. 16 and Jan. 17. Owned by the Venezuelan government, CANTV is the dominant ISP in Venezuela and captures roughly 80 percent of the local market.  

Telecommunications officials tweeted that the service failure was caused by a technical problem with national domain name system servers, but this left local technical experts scratching their heads—the nation’s other ISPs registered no disruption in service. Given the country’s increasingly fraught environment for civic engagement and speech, whether online or off, many citizens are second-guessing CANTV’s explanation. Writing for the independent news site, Arnaldo Espinoza noted that the possible block coincided with the return of embattled president Nicolas Maduro from a tour during which he visited China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, chiefly to negotiate new trade terms for crude oil. 

Post-Charlie censorship in Turkey

A Turkish court ordered telecommunication authorities to block several news sites showing the latest cover of French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cover, which the magazine published just a week after experiencing a brutal terrorist attack on its offices, featured the image of the prophet Muhammad in tears and holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie.” Twitter users in Turkey were divided over the news, with some expressing support and others outrage over the blockings. The hashtag #ÜlkemdeCharlieHebdoDağitilamaz (“Charlie Hebdo cannot be distributed in my country) reached the top of trending topics on Twitter on Wednesday.

Debate over the issue continued across Europe in the week following the attacks. French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who is of Cameroonian descent, was arrested on charges of being an “apologist for terrorism” for remarks he made on Facebook concerning one of the assailants in the Charlie Hebdo attack. Known for politically-charged and anti-semitic provocations, M’bala M’bala wrote in response: “I am considered a Amedy Coulibaly while I'm no different from Charlie.” He is currently in police custody.

China bans websites, WeChat pages for “impersonating” the government

In their latest effort to crack down on online speech, Chinese authorities shut down 24 websites, 17 public pages on social messaging app WeChat, and nine channels or columns on websites for offenses including “impersonation of the government or media,” publishing pornography, and “publishing political news without a permit,” according to the Cyberspace Administration of China. 

Lashings for Saudi blogger are on hold, for now

The case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years’ jail time and 1,000 lashes, has been referred to the Supreme Court by King Abdullah. The punishment caused a public outcry for what Amnesty International called its “outrageous inhumanity.” A second round of lashings, expected to be carried out this week, was postponed on his doctor’s recommendation. goes transparent

Publishing platform Medium released its first transparency report covering all requests made to the company in 2014. The site received no national security letters or demands from law enforcement for user information or content removal. Medium did receive several requests to remove content that allegedly violated copyright laws. In six of these cases, content was removed. In one, material was removed but later restored.  

Pirate shenanigans in Sweden

Swedish Pirate Party youth wing chairman Gustav Nipe pulled off a clever act of protest against mass surveillance at a major Swedish security conference. Nipe tricked attendees into revealing their web traffic by logging into a networked labeled “Open Guest”. Nipe wrote: 

The operation we have performed during the two conference days in Salen based on the same principle as the great spy organizations such as the US NSA and the Swedish FRA uses. The difference is that they sign a year round operation, and to a much greater extent.

 New Research

Revolution Decoded: Iran’s Digital Media Landscape – Small Media 

by Netizen Report Team at January 22, 2015 11:58 AM

January 21, 2015

Creative Commons
The Limits of Copyright: Text and Data Mining

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s topic is about supporting fair use, a legal doctrine in the United States and a few other countries that permits some uses of copyrighted works without the author’s permission for purposes such as parody, criticism, teaching, and news reporting. Fair use is an important check on the exclusive bundle of rights granted to authors under copyright law. Fair use is considered a “limitation and exception” to copyright.

One area of particular importance within limitations and exceptions to copyright is the practice of text and data mining. Text and data mining typically consists of computers analyzing huge amounts of text or data, and has the potential to unlock huge swaths of interesting connections between textual and other types of content. Understanding these new connections can enable new research capabilities that result in novel scholarly discoveries and critical scientific breakthroughs. Because of this, text and data mining is increasingly important for scholarly research.

Recently the United Kingdom enacted legislation specifically excepting noncommercial text and data mining from copyright. And as the European Commission conducts their review of EU copyright rules, some groups have called for the addition of a specific text and data mining exception. Copyright for Creativity’s manifesto, released Monday, urges the European Commission to add a new exception for text and data mining, in order to support new uses of technology and user needs.

Another view holds that text and data mining activities should be considered outside the purview of copyright altogether. The response from the Communia Association to the EU copyright consultation takes this approach, saying “if text and data mining would be authorized by a copyright exception, it would constitute a de facto recognition that text and data mining are not legitimate usages. We believe that mining texts and data for facts is an activity that is not and should not be protected by copyright and therefore introducing a legislative solution that takes the form of an exception should be avoided.” Similarly, there have been several actions advocating that “The right to read should be the right to mine.”

Whether text and data mining falls under a copyright exception or outside the scope of copyright, it is clearly an activity that should not be able to be controlled by the copyright owner. But unfortunately, that is exactly what some incumbent publishing gatekeepers are trying to do by setting up restrictive contractual agreements. One example we’ve seen of this practice is with the deployment of a set of “open access” licenses from the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM), many of which attempt to restrict text and data mining of the licensed publications. In jurisdictions such as the United States, users do not need to ask permission (or be granted permission through a license) to conduct text and data mining because the activity either falls outside of the scope of copyright or is squarely covered by fair use.

Ensuring that licenses give copyright owners no more control over their content than they have under copyright law is a fundamental principle of CC licensing. That’s why the licenses explicitly state that they in no way restrict uses that are under a limitation or exception to copyright. This means that users do not have to comply with the license for uses of the material permitted by an applicable limitation or exception (such as fair use) or uses that are otherwise unrestricted by copyright law, such as text and data mining in many jurisdictions.

Today’s topic of fair use rights reminds us that “for copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.” To liberate the massive potential for innovation made possible by existing and future types of text and data mining, we need user-focused copyright policy that enables these new activities.


by Timothy Vollmer at January 21, 2015 08:17 PM

Joi Ito
Beyond "The Uncanny Valley"

This year's annual Edge question was "What do you think about machines that think?"

Here's my answer:

"You can't think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something". --Seymour Papert

What do I think about machines that think? It depends on what they're supposed to be thinking about. I am clearly in the camp of people who believe that AI and machine learning will contribute greatly to society. I expect that we'll find machines to be exceedingly good at things that we're not--things that involve massive amounts of data, speed, accuracy, reliability, obedience, computation, distributed networking and parallel processing.

The paradox is that at the same time we've developed machines that behave more and more like humans, we've developed educational systems that push children to think like computers and behave like robots. It turns out that for our society to scale and grow at the speed we now require, we need reliable, obedient, hardworking, physical and computational units. So we spend years converting sloppy, emotional, random, disobedient human beings into meat-based versions of robots. Luckily, mechanical and digital robots and computers will soon help reduce if not eliminate the need for people taught to behave like them.

We'll still need to overcome the fear and even disgust evoked when robot designs bring us closer and closer to the "uncanny valley," in which robots and things demonstrate almost-human qualities without quite reaching them. This is true for computer animation, zombies and even prosthetic hands. But we may be approaching the valley from both ends. If you've ever modified your voice to be understood by a voice-recognition system on the phone, you understand how, as humans, we can edge into the uncanny valley ourselves.

There are a number of theories about why we feel this revulsion, but I think it has something to with human beings feeling they're special--a kind of existential ego. This may have monotheistic roots. Right around the time Western factory workers were smashing robots with sledgehammers, Japanese workers were putting hats on the same robots in factories and giving them names. On April 7, 2003, Astro Boy, the Japanese robot character, was registered as a resident of the city of Niiza, Saitama.

If these anecdotes tell us anything, it's that animist religions may have less trouble dealing with the idea that maybe we're not really in charge. If nature is a complex system in which all things--humans, trees, stones, rivers and homes--are all animated in some way and all have their own spirits, then maybe it's okay that God doesn't really look like us or think like us or think that we're really that special.

So perhaps one of the most useful aspects of being alive in the period where we begin to ask this question is that it raises a larger question about the role of human consciousness. Human beings are part of a massively complex system--complex beyond our comprehension. Like the animate trees, stones, rivers and homes, maybe algorithms running on computers are just another part of this complex ecosystem.

As human beings we have evolved to have an ego and believe that there such a thing as a self, but mostly, that's a self-deception to allow each human unit to work within the parameters of evolutionary dynamics in a useful way. Perhaps the morality that emerges from it is a self-deception of sorts, as well. For all we know, we might just be living in a simulation where nothing really actually matters. It doesn't mean we shouldn't have ethics and good taste. I just think we can exercise our sense of responsibility in being part of a complex and interconnected system without having to rely on an argument that "I am special." As machines become an increasingly important part of these systems, their prominence will make human arguments about being special increasingly fraught. Maybe that's a good thing.

Perhaps what we think about machines that think doesn't really matter--they will "think" and the system will adapt. As with most complex systems, the outcome is mostly unpredictable. It is what it is and will be what it will be. Most of what we think is going to happen is probably hopelessly wrong and as we know from climate change, knowing that something is happening and doing something about it often have little in common.

That might sound extremely negative and defeatist, but I'm actually quite optimistic. I believe that the systems are quite adaptive and resilient and that whatever happens, beauty, happiness and fun will persist. Hopefully, human beings will have a role. My guess is that they will.

It turns out that we don't make great robots, but we're very good at doing random and creative things that would be impossibly complex--and probably a waste of resources--to code into a machine. Ideally, our educational system will evolve to more fully embrace our uniquely human strengths, rather than trying to shape us into second-rate machines. Human beings--though not necessarily our current form of consciousness and the linear philosophy around it--are quite good at transforming messiness and complexity into art, culture, and meaning. If we focus on what each of us is best at, I think that humans and machines will develop a wonderful yin-yang sort of relationship, with humans feeding off of the efficiency of our solid-state brethren, while they feed off of our messy, sloppy, emotional and creative bodies and brains.

We are descending not into chaos, as many believe, but into complexity. At the same time that the Internet connects everything outside of us into a vast, seemingly unmanageable system, we find an almost infinite amount of complexity as we dig deeper inside our own biology. Much as we're convinced that our brains run the show, all while our microbiomes alter our drives, desires, and behaviors to support their own reproduction and evolution, it may never be clear who's in charge--us, or our machines. But maybe we've done more damage by believing that humans are special than we possibly could by embracing a more humble relationship with the other creatures, objects, and machines around us.

by Joi at January 21, 2015 10:41 AM

Global Voices
The Leading Cause of Death in Developing Countries Might Surprise You
A landfill fire in Fada-Ngourma, Gourma Province, Burkina Faso. Photo by Flickr user lepetitNicolas. CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

A landfill fire in Fada-Ngourma, Gourma Province, Burkina Faso. Photo by Flickr user lepetitNicolas. CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

This post by Richard Fuller was originally published on, a magazine that highlights international environmental solutions in action, and is republished here according to a content-sharing agreement.

What’s the leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries?

A.  malnutrition and undernutrition

B.  tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS

C.  pollution

If you guessed “C,” you got it. Exposures to polluted soil, water and air (both household and ambient) killed 8.4 million people in these countries in 2012.

Another statistic worth pondering: that 8.4 million is out of about 9 million people killed by pollution worldwide in 2012. In other words, this is not a “rich country” problem. This is a problem contained to the developing world.

To put this in perspective, World Health Organization statistics show that 56 million people died in 2012 — that’s every person who passed away on the planet, whether from car accidents, suicides, old age, cancer, hospital errors, lightning strike, infectious diseases, parachute failures, war or any number of other reasons. So, pollution killed nearly one in seven of them.

Contaminated outdoor air accounted for 3.7 million deaths. Another 4.2 million people died from particulates exposure in indoor air from cooking stoves. About 1 million died from chemicals and contaminated soil and water. And 840,000 succumbed to poor sanitation. All of these data come directly from the WHO’s website and databases, except for the soil statistics, which are sourced from more recent numbers (likely understated) from the Global Alliance for Health and Pollution.

In the same year, 2012, 625,000 people died from malaria, 1.5 million from HIV/AIDS and 930,000 from tuberculosis. That’s one-third the number of people that pollution kills, and yet this troika of terrible diseases attracts over $20 billion per year from international charities and governments.

Slow and indirect

It’s important to note that pollution rarely kills people directly or quickly. Instead, it causes heart disease, chest infections, cancers, respiratory diseases or diarrhea. Pollution acts as a catalyst, increasing the rates of these diseases above normal. For this reason, the WHO considers pollution a risk factor — a threat to human health similar to obesity, smoking, malnutrition or poor exercise. But pollution is the king of all risk factors. Worldwide, its fatality numbers dwarf those caused by any other risk factor in any other context.

It’s hard to imagine just how bad it can be. Try, though, to imagine this scenario:

You wake up each day on the dirt floor of a shack you and your family lashed together with cast-off materials from a nearby construction site for a five-star hotel. Your husband works 70 hours a week sorting chemicals in a badly run pesticides factory. Lately, he’s come home coughing up blood. He looks thinner and more exhausted each week, and you want to tell him to stop, but how can you? The pennies he earns are the only things feeding your kids.

So you head to the local pond with your plastic bucket. The water you scoop from the pond is brown and stinks of human waste, but there’s nothing else to drink. You try straining it through cheesecloth, but it doesn’t do much good. Meanwhile, the factory next door to your slum, the one the government recently shut down, has started operating again — but only at night. Its chimneys pump out serpents of thick smoke, and there’s no way of knowing what’s burning. Last week, your eldest child started coughing through the night. The rest of your children are sickly and slow to learn even the most basic concepts. None of your friends or family can help you since, curiously, almost everyone in your neighborhood has the same problems.

Our economy is global and so are the pollutants it generates.

You are one of the poisoned poor, without voice and without hope. Regulations that might exist to combat the conditions are never enforced. You cannot simply pick up and move to another town — it took you years to establish yourself to this extent. And anyway, where exactly would you go? Every village shares this plight. Like the rest of the world’s underprivileged, you have become cannon fodder in the ongoing war of growth.

How can we fix this problem?

Our economy is global and so are the pollutants it generates. Contaminated air from China can now be measured in other countries. Mercury from gold mining and coal plants can be found in fish, and arsenic has been found in rice.

Many highly polluting industries have moved from developed countries to poor countries with less environmental regulation and technology to manage and remediate chemicals. Clean technologies and green growth are possible for emerging economies and can prevent decades of future contamination that will harm us all. Western nations have had success in cleaning up pollution and can now transfer technology and funding to low- and middle-income countries.

Of critical importance is making sure pollution is included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which look at how to achieve future development sustainably after the current Millennium Development Goals expire this year.

Prioritizing the prevention and cleanup of pollution will not only save lives, but also mitigate climate change and reduce threats to biodiversity. Glancing through the program priorities of major international organizations, the low priority of pollution is startling, given its impact. The likely reason for this is a lack of awareness, as well as not knowing where to begin to address this complex set of problems.

Of critical importance is making sure pollution is included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which look at how to achieve future development sustainably after the current Millennium Development Goals expire this year and include topics such as ending poverty, promoting sustainable agriculture, ensuring equitable education and more. The current draft does not include a goal for pollution on its own, although pollution is included in the health goal. That text — sub-goal 3.9 — currently calls to reduce death and disability from all types of pollution. This language needs to stay in the final text, because the SDGs will define international and national efforts for the coming years.

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution is galvanizing resources to help low- and middle-income countries address priority pollution problems. In addition to education on all forms of pollution, GAHP helps countries:

  • identify and assess toxic pollutant threats, especially for contaminated sites
  • create a planning process to prioritize action for problems posing the greatest risk to human health
  • implement solutions to save lives.

The technology and knowledge exists in wealthy countries to address this health and economic threat. Solutions can be implemented in low- and middle-incomes countries for a fraction of the cost spent in the West addressing legacy toxic pollutants from industrialization.

Which means pollution is not inevitable. It is a problem that is solvable in our lifetime.

Richard Fuller is president of Pure Earth (formerly Blacksmith Institute) and a founding member of the Global Alliance for Health and Pollution. He tweets from @BlacksmithInst.

by Ensia at January 21, 2015 06:30 AM

Hong Kong Police Make Appointments With Occupy Central Activists For Their Arrests
The Hong Kong police made arrest appointment with 4 members of student activist group, Scholarism on 16 of January 2015. Photo from's Facebook page.

The Hong Kong police made arrest appointment with 4 members of student activist group, Scholarism on 16 of January 2015. Photo from's Facebook page.

Most of us are used to booking a dinner table. How would you react if the police made an appointment with you for an arrest? This may sound ludicrous, but so far Hong Kong police have done just that with more than 50 activists in the aftermath of the massive sit-in protests dubbed Occupy Central Movement, a series of protests demanding a genuine universal suffrage of Hong Kong's top leaders.

The activists were arrested under the allegations of inciting and participating in illegal assembly between September and December of last year. Although they were released after the “arrest appointments”, the activists believe the arrest action is meant to create an atmosphere of white terror so that ordinary citizens would be hesitant to participate in future protest action. But the police defended their position by saying that they were just being “civilized” in their action.

Lam Shun Hin, a student activist from Scholarism, described on Facebook the “civilized” phone call he received from the police “organized crime” department on January 6 (via Scholarism's page):

「喂,林淳軒,我係有組織罪案 ……」
當我十點幾收到咁提神ge morning call
「我地懷疑你涉嫌召集及組織未經批准集結, 想請你下星期返去協助調查。」



‘Hi, Lam Shun Hin, I am from the organized crime unit…’
The morning call at 10am woke me up and I knew that I would probably be arrested…
‘We suspected that you were involved in the planning and organization of unauthorized assembly and would like to invite you to help out our investigation next week.’
‘Are you going to arrest me instantly on that day?’
Dear Friends, please don't be worried. When I rushed into the Civic Square [which is outside the government headquarter on September 27, 2014, an incident that triggered the massive protests], I was also arrested. I have prepared for this psychologically. I am fearless to take the consequence of civil disobedience.
I believe that God teaches us to exercise justice on earth and be compassionate to our fellows. When facing white terror, I will work with God with my humble heart.

Wong Hoi Ming, an experienced activist who has been arrested several times in the past two years, explained why the police arrested them in such a manner:


How come they perform in such [a] stupid manner. They had not decided that they would sue them and release them without any condition [the activists refuse to pay any bail]. By doing so, they have to start all the procedures of the arrest again if they decide to proceed with the prosecution. The answer is simple. The police and the Department of Justice had not prepared the legal documents for [the] court proceeding. Then why don't they wait until they have enough materials for prosecution before they arrest the activists? The answer is also simple, because the Police Head Andy Tsang had openly claimed that they would ‘arrest’ the occupation protest activists within three months after the protest sites were cleared.
The arrest and the release is to serve the Police Head's public statement. To show that the police authority is powerful and to show to the Chinese Communist Party that he is ‘effective'. From such [an] angle, both the police officers and the arrestees have been turned into political tools for creating the heroic image of the police head.

In all senses, the “civilized” arrest by appointment is full of dark humor, which was captured in a viral photo circulated online over the weekend. The photo shows three ancient figures, the most remarkable heroes of the Three Kingdoms Period – Liu Beij, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei – standing outside the Mong Kok Police Station. Interestingly, Guan Yu, who represents justice, is a God worshipped by many local police officers. Netizens quipped that the police had also booked these three historic figures for arrest appointments.

Three ancient Chinese heroes standing outside Mong Kok Police Station. Netizens wondered if they also had appointment with the police. Photo from Mocking Jer's Facebook Page.

Three ancient Chinese heroes standing outside Mong Kok Police Station. Netizens wondered if they also had appointment with the police. Photo from Mocking Jer's Facebook Page.

by Oiwan Lam at January 21, 2015 02:02 AM

Lawrence Lessig
The 5th Anniversary of #CitizensUnited is tomorrow. Join an…

The 5th Anniversary of #CitizensUnited is tomorrow. Join an event in your community to take back our democracy! #CU5

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at January 21, 2015 01:30 AM

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