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March 29, 2008

"Captain Copyright"

While cruising around online today I found this entry on the Boing Boing blog referencing the Columbian Creative Commons project and "Captain Copyright". Captain Copyright is a cartoon superhero who teaches children about copyright and travels around protecting us from the improper use of copyrighted material. I thought this couldn't be more relevant to our discussion this week. Check out the two links below.

Boing Boing blog entry

Captain Copyright Reappears in Columbia on icommons.org

March 28, 2008

The Gray Era Of Copyright

I had an idea of what the different creative common licenses were since I became a member of Flickr, and had to download pictures of the 35w bridge collapse, and understood them to a certain extent but not fully until I found a picture that I wanted to use for my 3672 Project Design and Development class. My team was designing a website, brochure, menu, and promotional cards for a bar we were proposing to build. We wanted to name the bar MOJO's, and we needed a logo, so I searched on Flickr and found a picture that looked like a MOJO man. I noticed the attribution symbol next to the authors picture. I really wanted to use it so I blogged to him and said, "hi.. i am designing a website for a project in my class... it is not going to be a real up loadable website...but was wondering if i could use this picture as the logo for a fake restaurant called MOJO'S? He replied, "no problems make sure to send me the link when you're done, cheers." I thought wow, that was easy. However from the readings Bound By Law, it came to my attention immediately that there was a definite gray area between knowing what material is in the public domain and when you could assert fair use on materials. As Akiko was trying to make a meaningful documentary it was either asserting fair use, trying to find the rights owners and ask for permission, or overdubbing it with music that is in the public domain, which seemed ludacris to the scenarios where the music meant a big deal to the scene. I couldn't believe how vicious some of the copyright controversies had gotten.

I think for our wiki we should use the attribution license, because peer production is definitely expanding. In the Wikipedia readings for this week, I felt that Tapscott thoroughly investigated the reasons why peer production will inevitably out-source development from traditional firms, by stating the reason of "self-selection". "When people voluntarily self-select for creative, knowledge-intensive tasks they are more likely than managers to choose tasks for which they are uniquely qualified" (Wikinomics, pg. 69). Linux originator Linus Torvalds asserts in compliance to self-selection that, "self-selecting communities of people in constant communication have a higher probability of matching the best people to the right tasks than a single firm with a much smaller set of resources to work with" (Wikinomics, pg. 69). This is why peer-production will change the way we publish information.

Copyright, Copyleft?

In this weeks Wikinomics chapter, I really wish we could have started the class with the first portion. It brought to life what a wiki really is. As the chapter progressed, however, I can see why we waited until now to read it. I had to look up several terms to really get a full picture of the workings. Here is what I got (via Wikipedia, of course) :

Open-source programming: written software that must meet a certain set of principles and practices. Most important is that the source code (akin to tagging in Excel or Word) is openly available for anyone to use. It has to be freely modifiable, useable, and redistributable (Wikipedia, 2008).

GNU/Linux: an example of open sourcing.

Wiki: software that allows collaboration with users in the ability to create, edit, link, and organize a website thereby becoming a community website. "Wikipedia is an example of peer production, a new way of producing goods and services that harness the power of mass collaboration" (Tapscott and Williams, p.65, 2006).

Apache: "a collaborative, consensus-based development process and an open and pragmatic software license. Each project is managed by a self-selected team of technical experts who are active contributors to the project. The ASF is a membership to the foundation which is granted only to volunteers who have actively contributed to Apache projects" (Wikipedia, 2008).

Lordy, lordy! Linux and Windows are operating systems on your computer and Apache runs these systems as a web server. OK, I now understand that I want to understand too much. I need to keep this on a basic level or I will confuse myself. I do not need to know how to write an open-source program, nor do I need to know EXACTLY how it works. I do, however, want to know how I can make money off this concept.

I have a friend at work that is very adept at open sourcing. Sometimes a little too adept because he can make my head spin and not even know it. He said the founder of Wikipedia has actually made a new type of Wikipedia-"Wikia"- a free web hosting service free for readers and editors. It licenses user-provided content under
the "Gnu Free Documentation License". This license is a copyleft license for free documentation. "A copyleft license is the practice of using copyright law to remove restrictions on distributing copies and modified versions of a work
for others, and requiring that the same freedoms be preserved in modified versions" (Wikipedia, 2008). Could this not apply to our works? There are still resources listed so the original gets its full credit.

March 27, 2008

Copyrights, public domain and us

This week’s readings while interesting did not provide me with a lot of new useful information. Bound by Law in particular, while it states the positive points and negative points of copyright law and many of the most common pitfalls of creative expression in our day and age. One of the most intriguing statements from Bound by Law was that “several filmmakers’ organizations have jointly produced a statement of best practices in fair use to clarify how professional filmmakers interpret fair use in daily practice? however, this actual information was only available after additional searching. While this is understandable for the purposes of story telling actual definitions of commonly accepted fair use practices would be significantly more informative given the subject matter. This subject matter is very important for us in particular since we are working on a collaborative document for access by a wide audience, and knowing what rights we have as creators and what obligations we have as users of others creations will help avoid many problems that could show up later in the creation process.

On the scale of varying levels of licensing and limited reserved rights more specifically; use by attribution would be ideal for our situation since most if not all of the material we will be using will be by attribution. The idea of using other people’s knowledge and information by attribution without allowing others to do the same of our own creation seems to be a seriously problematic double standard towards our view of public knowledge and use of that knowledge.

Impressed

I have to admit, Bound by Law really did it for me! There have been instances where I was dissatisfied with Wikinomics because it wasn’t balanced enough in its arguments for my taste. Enter Bound by Law! I really enjoyed this book and respected its arguments.
The description of the current copyright laws was very informative (Bound by Law? p10-11). I had no idea that current copyrights could last for so long! Seventy to ninety-five years after the death of the author seems excessive. This was a real eye-opener.
One of the key issues that the book addressed was the lawsuit problem. It is so disappointing, if not surprising, that copyright holders use intimidation to block creators from using their copyrighted item, even when it would be a fair use (Bound by Law? p24).
Certainly an incidental recording of a cell phone ring isn’t worth $10,000! And perhaps, wouldn’t the presence of the ring actually benefit the copyright holder – I’m sure they are receiving payment from the cell phone maker – and when people hear the ring, they may want it. Hey, free advertising!

"NO, IT'S MINE!"

"What's yours?" is probably a question that goes along with intellectual property. My brother-in-law's niece when she was going through the "terrible two's" would always say "NO, IT'S MINE!" She was probably talking about her teddy bear or blanket or some other children's toy. When we're talking about intellectual property and moreover copyright, it is not so simple as whose toy that belongs to. It is definitely more complex. Nonetheless, it is important because we need to give credit to people's work. How would you feel if you worked really hard on something and someone else claimed it as there's? It's probably happened before. At work maybe? You worked on a project or came up with an idea only to have someone else take credit for it. For example, you as a worker discovered an answer to this huge problem. You share it among your teammates/department. Then during a meeting with let's say management involved, one of the management personnel asks about the discoverer. Someone else speaks up and claims discovering it. How devastating! You just want to say, "NO, IT'S MINE!"

Krista painted a good picture with what she wrote in the moodle this week, "You might also know that you automatically hold the copyright on any creative or intellectual work you produce. When you doodle on a napkin, you own it the second you finish and remove the pen from the paper. And you own it for 70 years after your own death. . . . The Internet complicates all this" . . . and yes complicated it is. I guess I could start by trying to learn more and more about copyright at http://www.copyright.gov/ BUT with the internet taken into consideration, I would probably need another brain to store the information. Anyone know where to find another brain?--Just kidding! Creative Commons also painted a good picture and uncomplicated the topic so I could understand more about copyright and how internet fits in with it. It definitely had a positive spin, which I totally like. The message was: collaboration, working together, and sharing your knowledge and creativity for the common good. Bringing up again what I had written what Krista had written: ". . . you automatically hold the copyright on any creative or intellectual work you produce. When you doodle on a napkin, you own it the second you finish and remove the pen from the paper. . ." That was mentioned at 0:56 on the video, "Did you know when you create something, anything, from a photograph to a song to a drawing to a film to a story, you automatically own an 'All rights reserved' copyright to that creativity. It's true!" For some reason, I've always thought in my head that we have to apply for copyright. Now I know!

Regarding my thoughts on what type of licensing we should use, it is a very hard decision and sometimes I'm the most indecisive person. There are so many to choose from in http://creativecommons.org/about/license/ After thinking and thinking, I am still not sure what to use, but if I had to choose now, I would probably choose:
"Attribution (by)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution." (http://creativecommons.org/about/license/)
The reason why: because it "is the most accommodating of licenses offered". I'm all about accommodation. In the end, others "credit you for the original creation".

All in all, copyright is important because giving credit to the respective person is the right thing to do. Looking from a historical standpoint, it may help in accurate recording/archiving. Furthermore, the person behind the copyrighted work would be considered the expert or knows the work the best. I myself would rather talk with the person who created the work rather than someone else who claims he/she created the work. Overall, copyright tells us simply the creator of the work without having to hear, "NO, IT'S MINE!"

Reading Bound By Law: Tales From the Public Domain. by Aoki, Boyle, and Jenkins reminded me of one of the first posts in this blog site. It was David S who posted a comic. Since Bound By Law is a comic, that triggered my memory of David S' post from Week 1.

This was fun to read as it wasn't like the "normal" textbooks. Here are the parts that stood out to me:

"Each episode in our little series about the arts will examine one portion of a legal boundary, a kind of twilight zone. This is the line between intellectual property and the public domain. . . " (Aoki et al, 2006, p. 2) -- It set the tone for the reading, and I kind of felt as if I were in the twilight zone. Spooky!

"This is like a minefield. I'm scared I might discover what's copyrighted the hard way, when it blows up in my face!" (Aoki et al, 2006, p. 9) -- "Like a minefield" was a good analogy, but it was also graphic with the part when she mentions blowing up in her face (SCARY!)

"A cell phone happened to ring during the filming of Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell's "Mad Hot Ballroom," a documentary about New York City kids in a Ballroom Dancing competition. The ring tone was the "Rocky" theme song. This is a very strong case for fair use. But EMI, which owns the rights to the "Rocky" song, asked for -- guess how much?" I dunno . . . How much? $10,000!" (Aoki et al, 2006, p. 14) -- This brought me to today's technology, which brought me to the present moment.

United logos of America

When I visited New York City for the first time I was overwhelmed by its vivacity and diversity: a place where there’s every kind of everything imaginable and everything is a photo waiting to be made. Immersed in the teeming chaos of the streets, I stopped speaking English and my camera took over for my eyes. An enormous flag appeared appearing to be simultaneously American and not. As I approached, logos emerged in the place of stars and stripes. Parallel rows and evenly spaced clusters of corporate logos made up these United States of America. I haven’t thought about the logo flag for years. While reading Bound By Law, the memory of the flag resurfaced unbidden as a powerful illustration of the concept of “rights (1)? or “permission culture (2).? Driven to understand this indelible image, I have learned that the concept of “permission culture? is attributed to Lawrence Lessig, a prominent advocate of reducing copyright protection. Lessig believes that American culture is one “in which copyright restrictions are pervasive and enforced to the extent that any and all uses of copyrighted works need to be explicitly leased (3).? Clearly Aoki agrees with Lessig. What I appreciated most about his book however was the balanced perspective he offers on a debate that is usually characterized only by the extremes of piracy or absolute control. Previously lacking Aoki’s view on the topic, I leaped to protect the interests of my many artist friends and my own creative profession. Thankfully, he taught me several important things about copyright law that, quite frankly, I didn’t know or fully appreciate: • Fair use regulates the balance between protecting expression and maintaining access to the “raw material? of creativity (4); • Creativity requires a rich public domain from which we can all draw inspiration (5). As a graphic designer, I experience the chilling effect of increasing restrictions on fair use. I recently learned from a photographer I work with that a number of cities have actually copyrighted their skylines. At the same time, this photographer and I were jumping through hoops to obtain permission to include the masthead of the Wall Street Journal in one of our shots … One incident makes it particularly clear to me that that fair use restrictions probably have gone too far. A dispute arose over the right to use a candid photo of a person in a piece I designed. In the end, I couldn’t use the image even though it caused no demonstrable market harm or personal injury of any sort. At the time it occurred, this incident frustrated me creatively. The image was beautiful and the best of the bunch available. After reading Aoki however, I see the incident as an example of how the implied threat of a lawsuit influences the interpretation and practice of fair use law. The possibility of legal issues now factors into all my photo choices. At the same time, I see how digital technology does threaten legitimate copyright protection. People with just a little technical savvy pull photos, logos and all sorts of assets off the Internet and reproduce them without permission in publications they produce. I’ve had my own work appropriated and used without my permission. Aoki convinced me however, that the best response is not further restrictions on fair use. We can’t be so intimidated by the creativity digital technology enables that we copyright reality. • A flag comprised of logos is an apt sign of our cultural times. Paul Rand, one of the most influential graphic designers in the U.S. said that, “A logo is a flag, a signature, an escutcheon (6).? According to Aristotle, one the most influential thinkers in “Western? culture, logos refers to argument from reason. I say let’s argue from reason: our cultural survival requires a teeming creative commons. ______________________________________________________________________ References 1. Aoki, James, Boyle, James, Jenkins, Jennifer. Bound by Law: Tales from the Public Domain. (Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain: 2006). Pg. 19. 2. “Permission culture.? Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permission_culture. Retrieved on 27 March 2008. 3. “Permission culture.? Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Lessig. Retrieved on 27 March 2008. 4. Aoki. Bound by Law. pg. 34 5. Ibid., pg. 33 6. Rand, Paul. “Logos, flags, and Escutcheons.? Paul-Rand.com. http://www.paul-rand.com/thoughts_logosflags.shtml Retrieved on 27 March 2008.

Twitter's Deception

Local blogger Aaron Landry posts about "Twitter in [his] perfect world."

A comic book in grad school?

On Monday night, when my husband knew I was reading for school, he saw me reading Bound by Law and said, “Are you reading a comic book?? with a raised eyebrow. And before I started reading it, I kind of looked at it with a raised eyebrow too. But that didn’t last too long because it was so quick to read and had so much good information—especially since I consider our website to be a kind of documentary. And the part in “The Prosumers? about mash-ups and remixing music made me think about how I created the chronology page. I used so many bits and pieces and snippets of info from here and there—no direct quotes—but now I wonder if I violated any copyright laws or if it is fair use. Good thing it isn’t published yet.

I’m assuming we will be using one or more of the licenses found at Creative Commons, but I’m wondering if the license applies to the entire site or can individual page owners choose different conditions? I vote for Attribution and Non-commercial, but am more than willing to listen to arguments for other options. Anyway, I think Creative Commons is a genius idea—I’m going to start looking for licenses on web pages now. Has anyone ever spotted one?

On to Wikinomics…One of the things I really like about Wikinomics is the real life examples the authors use in their writing, such as the London bombing Wikipedia entry (65), the IBM open sourcing story (77-82), Legos Mindstorms (130-131), Apple/iPod (132-134), etc. And I think Matt Barton’s idea of using Wikipedia to create a “living, breathing resource on English rhetoric, its history, uses, and meaning? (74) is brilliant—what a great way to get what he personally wants online with minimal effort. Looks like the phrase “nature abhors a vacuum? applies to Wikipedia.

I’ve always been a little leery of using Wikipedia as a research resource, so I usually just use it as a starting point to get additional references. But reading about it in “The Peer Pioneers? chapter and how its peer collaboration works gives me more confidence in the quality and veracity of its information. It was reassuring to see that the Encyclopedia Britannica was found to have a similar number of errors (Wikinomics, 75). What isn’t reassuring is that while the Wikipedia errors could be fixed quickly, the Britannica errors were not. One of the drawbacks of paper publishing.

I think “The Prosumers? chapter was the most interesting of this week’s Wikinomics readings. There seems to be a fine and unhappy line between what companies (and the music industry) want to allow and what consumers want to do with what they buy. Big business forgets that when someone buys something, they consider that item to be theirs to do with as they please. I remember reading about people who lost their iPhone hacks when they got a software upgrade—they were furious because they had made the phone how they wanted it and they lost everything, including the ability to use a phone company besides AT&T. Companies need to wake up: “In the new prosumer-centric paradigm, customers want a genuine role in designing the products of the future. It’s just that they will do it on their own terms, in their own networks, and for their own ends. In fact, they will do so increasingly without you knowing about it. Products that don’t enable and invite customer participation will be anathema—staid, old-fashioned remnants of a less customer-friendly era? (Wikinomics, 149).

Aside 1—"The Prosumers" chapter was obviously written before the iPhone was launched. I laughed when I read this: “Analysts speculate that Apple may use upcoming generations of the iPod to move into the mobile phone market as well? (134). Mission accomplished.

Aside 2—I also had a couple ah-ha moments this week while reading…like how the Linux open source communities work (and that there are many communities) and how companies/people make money using open source information. Two mini mysteries solved.

A very fine line between too much and not enough

When contemplating intellectual property and the use of creative works a very blurry line appears in the sand. When is material too protected by copyrights and when is there not enough protection for the creator? Bound By Law pointed out that now all creative material is automatically copyrighted and it is the responsibility of the user to track down the original copyright owner to obtain permission (9). By this point in time nearly everyone has heard that the song "Happy Birthday" is held under copyright. In fact, the documentary entitled "The Corporation" refused to play audio to accompany a video of a birthday party because they did not want to pay the fee to play the song in their film. Is this an example of too much protection?

On the other hand, Wikinomics provided an example of a harmonious balance between not enough and too much. IBM was a case example that Tapscott and Williams examined. When IBM's sales began to decline while trying to complete with other platforms such as Microsoft, they looked to open source communities, more specifically Linux to salvage their company. Although entering the world of open source development slowly they soon learned to respect the rules of the community in order to participate and gain from it. In March of 1998, IBM joined the Apache programming community and opened up large portions of valuable code to the community in exchange for participation. In December of 1998, IBM began moving from Apache to Linux and has not looked back since (Wikinomics, 77-83). Although it was a daring business move IBM saw the value in sharing their code in exchange for developments that would save the company millions.

The two examples above are great for understanding the need for open source sharing but do little to actually answer why intellectual property protection even matters. So why does it? It is a very hard question to answer and I'm not sure I will be able to answer it but one quote from Wikinomics really brought this question into perspective for me. "If you do not stay current with the users, they invent around you, creating opportunities for competitors" (94). Although this quote originally was in relation to Firefox, the web browser, I think it applies to all intellectual property. I think finding a balance between too much protection and not enough is difficult but very important. If you design a website all about the economy but do not allow any input from users the material quickly becomes outdated and the users move on to a site such as Wikipedia where then can participate and mold the page as time progresses. No one benefits from a solid medium but if you can design something that is fluid and can be molded and adapted as it is needed it becomes far more valuable. Protecting intellectual property is important for profit and recognition reasons but it is far more important to share portions of the property in order to share creativity and evolve as a community, whether is be web designers or musicians.

So how does all of this help us decide what sort of licensing we should use for our wiki work? I think it all goes back to are discussion of what are goals are for the page and what we define as success. We wanted a site that was easy to use, provided all necessary information, etc. and I think the only way to achieve this is to let the users define these standards on their own. Even with a class of 14 as we have we still need outside input. I think the ideas presented in the Creative Commons video are exactly what we need. We do want to protect a portion of our work but we also want to allow it to grow as more information becomes available. I think we should have a discussion as a group about what we want to keep solid and what is fluid for recreation by the users. Like the video says " When you share your creativity, you are enabling people anywhere to use it, learn from it, and be inspired by it." It is very possible that the material and design of our wiki will inspire somewhere to share their own story regarding the bridge, let's be the platform for them to build it.

March 26, 2008

Determining Ownership

I found this weeks readings from Wikinomics and Bound By Law to be particularly interesting. During an age of peer production popularity, it makes determining the rights of intellectual property very difficult. It used to be that works were not protected unless the author included a copyright notice. The law has now changed and all creative works are automatically copyrighted. According to "Bound By Law", "If there's no copyright notice, it's up to you to track the rights down." This can obviously be extremely frustrating and time consuming for the author/artist. This is why I feel that Attribution (by) licensing is the type we should use. This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution (Creative Commons Licensing Types). So far I have had luck with knowing who to credit from the material I have obtained.

A quote that I found to be very important was that from Bound By Law, Judge Kozinski said "Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it. Creativity is impossible without a rich public domain. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it's supposed to nurture." The judge explains: "Nothing today, likely nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new: culture, like science and technology grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before." While I feel that it is important for those to be recognized for their work, it is hard to ignore that mass collaboration from that of peer production can be extremely successful.

A perfect example of peer production is the creation of Wikipedia which is a free online encyclopedia that can be written and edited by anyone. The 2005 explosions in London Underground stations was an event that was largely documented by wiki enthusiasts. "By the end of the day, over twenty-five hundred users had created a comprehensive fourteen-page account of the event that was much more detailed than the information provided by any single news outlet." (Wikinomics, pg. 65). This is also what we are essentially creating as a class by collecting data and information from a numerous sources for our web site. By collaborating all of our knowledge and expertise about the bridge collapse we are able to provide a creative and informational site to our audience.

Peer production has proven to be successful, but it is important to keep in mind that there are some obstacles that we must overcome. It is essential that our site is consistent in all aspects. We want to keep our audience interested and prevent and confusion. It is also very important for our information to be accurate. In fact that has been found as a major weakness of the Wikipedia site, since anyone can claim to be an expert on a subject. If we are found to be non-credible in our works, we will have failed at our goal for this class.

March 25, 2008

"A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights."

So says Napoleon.

And that's why I like the readings this week, and especially Bound By Law. Holding Creative Commons aside for a moment, I would venture that the perception among all of us before this week has been that rights to just about all the creative content and intellectual property we see have been completely and exclusively locked away under corporate pressure, to the extent that nothing was allowed for us to work with in an artistic way - even being risky for personal use on sites like Facebook or Flickr - and certainly not in any professional, reproducible, or monetizable way. With entrenched notions of ownership fixed upon direct profit, media giants would surely like to perpetuate that belief (forgive me if I assert this without citing/sourcing any of their actual efforts to that end). It is reassuring to read that the law does not sit so squarely in that corner, and can work both ways.

The point these giants and so many others miss is the one explained through the entire narrative of Bound by Law, but also well illustrated by the IBM-Linux example used throughout Chapter 3 of Wikinomics. "The Commons" in whatever form is a driver of innovation and creativity, and innovation and creativity drive profit. Ideas and content (music, visual, writing, code, etc...) in the public sphere do not zero-sum against private interest. Both readings do a good job of illustrating just how fair use, open source, and related concepts of collaborative use can be enriching to society and broadly profitable for even the biggest corporations. One is tempted to surmise that those entities that rail so hard against these movements do so out of desperation, for lack of any true future vision or talent.

That should bring us to Creative Commons. A brilliant idea and a bright light in the copyright darkness. For purposes of our own wiki, I think if we are to use a CC license the only reasonable choice is the "Attribution(by)":

Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

Not to diminish our hard work and diligence in collecting data and providing summaries and insights (and whatever else we do from here), but everything we are doing is sourced directly from other material we are using freely or maybe in a fair-use context. We're also deriving our benefit from the class itself in credits and knowledge, and what else would we realistically expect to gain? To me it's cut and dried, so I'll be very interested to hear any different takes on that.

March 23, 2008

Drupal

I have recently accepted an internship, and I needed to do research on the programming language PHP. I really don't know where to start, but my boss told me to look into Drupal which is a free and open source modular framework and content management system. I investigated the homepage and its contents, and it seems that it would be an excellent resource to have if your interested in managing, organizing and publishing web content in a variety of different ways that are shown through, blogs, collaborative authoring environments, peer-to-peer networking, newsletters, podcasting, picture galleries, personal or corporate websites, resource directories, or social networking sites. I am attracted to this because I want to build and design websites but I have no knowledge of programming and Drupal sounds like an excellent site with an excellent community that gives great feedback and support. I encourage everyone to check out this site.

http://drupal.org/

March 22, 2008

Since we are all about collaboration...

I can't take full credit for this great find since it originally came to me through Web Worker Daily but they introduced me to Lefora. Lefora offers free forum hosting, but it is unlike most of the other sites that offer free forum hosting, it is simple to use. It is quick and easy to set up and works great in a pinch. I used it for a recent work project and was surprised how quick and efficient it was to use. Furthermore, many of the clients I have invited to the forum are not IT professionals and this was a breeze for them to use. I love this site and definitely plan to use it again so I thought I would share incase anyone else had the same complaints about forums I did.

Here is the address for the Web Worker Daily entry http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/03/22/lefora-free-forums/

Here is the address for Lefora http://www.lefora.com/

Since we are all about collaboration...

I can't take full credit for this great find since it originally came to me through Web Worker Daily but they introduced me to Lefora. Lefora offers free forum hosting, but it is unlike most of the other sites that offer free forum hosting, it is simple to use. It is quick and easy to set up and works great in a pinch. I used it for a recent work project and was surprised how quick and efficient it was to use. Furthermore, many of the clients I have invited to the forum are not IT professionals and this was a breeze for them to use. I love this site and definitely plan to use it again so I thought I would share incase anyone else had the same complaints about forums I did.

Here is the address for the Web Worker Daily entry http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/03/22/lefora-free-forums/

Here is the address for Lefora http://www.lefora.com/

Since we are all about collaboration...

I can't take full credit for this great find since it originally came to me through Web Worker Daily but they introduced me to Lefora. Lefora offers free forum hosting, but it is unlike most of the other sites that offer free forum hosting, it is simple to use. It is quick and easy to set up and works great in a pinch. I used it for a recent work project and was surprised how quick and efficient it was to use. Furthermore, many of the clients I have invited to the forum are not IT professionals and this was a breeze for them to use. I love this site and definately plan to use it again so I thought I would share incase anyone else had the same complaints about forums I did.

Here is the address for the Web Worker Daily entry http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/03/22/lefora-free-forums/

Here is the address for Lefora http://www.lefora.com/

Since we are all about collaboration...

I can't take full credit for this great find since it originally came to me through Web Worker Daily but they introduced me to Lefora. Lefora offers free forum hosting, but it is unlike most of the other sites that offer free forum hosting, it is simple to use. It is quick and easy to set up and works great in a pinch. I used it for a recent work project and was surprised how quick and efficient it was to use. Furthermore, many of the clients I have invited to the forum are not IT professionals and this was a breeze for them to use. I love this site and definitely plan to use it again so I thought I would share incase anyone else had the same complaints about forums I did.

Here is the address for the Web Worker Daily entry http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/03/22/lefora-free-forums/

Here is the address for Lefora http://www.lefora.com/

March 19, 2008

no muss no fuss collaboration (guest post by Jenny Spadafora)

(Cross-posted from the Intuit Labs blog)

Last month, Krista and I launched a collaborative photo project. Every Monday and Thursday, we post a new diptych on our site. We don’t talk about what we are going photograph, other than in general terms (such as: how about “collected objects? for Monday?) and we don’t see what the other person shoots until it’s time to put the images together. So far, we think it’s working out well — and we’ve still never met.

Because I hear a lot of talk about supporting or enabling collaboration, I thought I’d write about our homegrown project, taking a look at the tools we’ve used to make it work. Anyone with an idea (and a willingness to get just a wee bit geeky with it) could do something like what we’ve done. Here’s how we did it:

blog
I wrote about how the project I was currently involved in (365 Days) was almost over, and I was wondering what to do next. The spark for what would become Monday / Thursday happened in the comments to that post.

email It may be , but email is not dead. We followed up the blog comments with email. As the project took form, longer things that weren’t urgent went to email.

IM
Most of our talking happens on iChat. Yeah, both have Macs with video chatting capability, but we’ve only used it once. We’re texty people.

WordPress
Since my coconspirator is busy teaching classes and writing her dissertation, I volunteered to handle the back end stuff. I chose WordPress because it was familiar, extensible, and available as a one-click install from my web host. After spending some time looking at
readymade themes, I figured I’d be better off creating my own. (I also knew we’d be revamping this site, so what I’d learn would be put to immediate use at work.)

flickr
I opened a new pro account for the project: it’s great for image storage and sharing, and I knew we’d never, ever run into bandwidth issues this way. We each upload our half of the diptych and mark as private (so it stays out of public view until it’s finished), take turns grabbing the images, creating the diptych and uploading that image to flickr, and then cutting and pasting the auto-resized large version into a post on our site. I’m sure posting to our site could work automagically via flickr’s API — sites like Utata use flickr’s API — but I’m not a programmer and this is low volume enough the old-fashioned way really isn’t a pain.

Google Calendar
We use this to keep track of our themes, which we plot out about a month in advance. (Recently, I switched to iGoogle as my home page, so I can see at a glance what I’ve got to do , if I have any mail, and what’s up on the calendar. The theme of the page also gives me visual cues about time, as a cute little tiger progresses through her day.)

twitter
We use it to communicate and broadcast status messages in general, so it’s easier to get in touch with each other. If one of us is online but not on chat, we can DM each other. Or just know hey, she won’t be around for awhile because she’s stuck in meetings or off to the movies or whatever one of us just twittered we were up to.

It think it’s also worth noting what we didn’t need to pull this off: a complicated project management system, every detail nailed down way in advance, an inordinate amount of time, or a lot of money. We mostly took advantage of things we already had (my hosting account was already set up to handle multiple domains; I knew WordPress well, we were both used to flickr) to do something we loved (challenge ourselves creatively).

March 13, 2008

Usability is important. period

I wasn't sure if there was a blog requirement this week as it didn't say in the moodle and last week there wasn't one as our writing energies went into our drafts, but I just wanted to bring up how I think usability is very important. You've probably heard of the well-known saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, pertaining to usability, someone could say, "If it ain't usable, don't use it."--It's more like, "If it ain't usable, it can't be used." The statement is profoundly true! That's why I think usability is so important. What I found really alarming in one of this week's readings was when I read, "When the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) undertook a survey of over 1,000 UK websites in 2004, it found that eight out of 10 across all industry sectors failed to comply with even basic accessibility standards. (Everett, 2006, p. 1)" That's 80%, and if I did my math right--800 out of 1000--therefore, only 200 out of 1000 complied. This was in 2004, so I'm only hoping that the rates are improving. Moreover, it was written in the same article, "But another study undertaken last year for the Cabinet Office by AbilityNet, a charity that provides a range of services to help disabled people exploit computers and the internet more effectively, revealed that the situation had improved little. (Everett, 2006, p. 1)" Since the article was from 2006, the latter study must have been in 2005, a year after the 2004 study. With positivity, there's an improvement! The focus was on UK websites, so I wonder how US compares. Regardless of it being UK or US or Egypt or India, usability should be regarded important anywhere in the world.

Thanks to our friends across the border at UW-Madison, Web Accessibility 101 is a good guide to understand web accessibility/usability. Nielsen's Usability 101 site also gives us ways on how to improve usability.

Also in Nielsen's Usability 101, it is explained why usability is so important: "On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. . . . (Nielsen, 2003, p. 1)" We definitely don't want site visitors to leave--period--and the website being difficult to use is not a good reason why a site visitor should leave because we have the power to be good information architects to build a site to have it be easy to use and not have people leave. Nielsen continues with why usability is important: ". . . If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website's information is hard to read or doesn't answer users' key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? (Nielsen, 2003, p. 1)" Yes, note the pattern of leaving. On that note, I myself am leaving. Well, I am not leaving for good; I'm closing up this blog and "leaving". I leave you with this final thought: Usability is important. period

March 7, 2008

More than I thought

Although there is no blog requirement this week, I just wanted to say that creating a website was harder than I thought. Well, maybe I am not using the correct word choice. Creating the website definitely involves more energy and effort than I thought it would. In addition, working with 10+ colleagues requires more effort and careful planning so that we're all on the same page. After reading the Web Style Guide links, I said to myself, "There is definitely a lot to think about. I never knew that there were so much that we would have to consider." Besides page color to think about, there's font, paragraph style, abbreviations, dimensions, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. I kind of feel a little overwhelmed. I'll be fine though...I hope. Nonetheless, I am still excited about this project.

March 6, 2008

A Little Peak at the Inside of Web 2.0

One of my favorite blogs, Web Work Daily, had this link a little while ago and I have since become obsessed. I thought I had better share incase any of you would feel the same way. The site is called "Office Snapshots" and it is a whole bunch of photos of the actual office of Web 2.0 companies. Ever wondered what Google looks like? What about Facebook or Craigslist? All three of these and many many more companies have photos of their offices, and in some cases employees. It makes me a little jealous sometimes but it is really interesting to see. I thought it was a good thing to share at the end of a long week incase you needed something to provide a little down time.

http://www.officesnapshots.com/

March 5, 2008

success: a synopsis

Here’s a condensed version of the ways you defined what a successful project would look like. (They're in no particular order.)

  • Simply making the site a reality
  • Creating a site that stands out from the rest
  • Creating an audience-focused site
  • Creating a clean, coherent, interesting, engaging product
  • Giving back to the community
  • Developing a community centered around the site
  • Continuing contributions past the end of the semester
  • Creating a well-filtered resource
  • Integrating truly useful searchability
  • Easy navigation
  • Creating a useful classification schema
  • Balancing quality and quantity of information
  • Hitting 100% accuracy, or as close to it as we can get
  • Integrating links to primary resources
  • Integrating rich media

March 4, 2008

new category!

Since several of you have very real concerns about the job economy and what's been called the rise of the creative class, I’ve made a category called "Offshoring / The Creative Class." Sara just posted about the topic’s place (or lack thereof) in this election cycle), and I think further discussion would be quite appropriate for our class if you’re up for it.

March 3, 2008

Growth in "off-shoring"

I heard a report on MPR this morning based on this article from CFO Magazine on the growth of off-shoring in corporate America. The author states that off-shoring is now so commonplace that it isn't nearly as politically sensitive as it was in previous election years. Her report supports the predictions made by Tapscott and Williams--unfortunately. She believes that only "the most interesting jobs" will be left in this country. While that's very good news for a few people, I want to know what everyone else is going to be doing...

Here's an except: “Companies and offshore service providers alike have expanded their views on which functions can be offshored, with everything from traditional call-center work to legal research on the table. They have also learned how to better manage the outsourcing process. At the same time, finance chiefs have gained a healthier respect for the hazards involved in sending work overseas (see "Staying Put" at the end of this article).

Far less fearful of a public backlash than before, companies today have a world of options when it comes to offshoring arrangements. "It's become a global bazaar," says Raffy Ohannesian of DLC, a finance and accounting-services firm. "Whatever you need, you will be able to find it at a lower cost, with a minimal or acceptable level of quality degradation, or sometimes even improvement. It's just a more mature market."

Offshoring, in short, has grown up.?

From: "Offshoring Spreads Its Wings: From East Asia to Eastern Europe, offshore outsourcing is taking off." Kate O'Sullivan, CFO Magazine March 1, 2008

—Sara

March 2, 2008

Collaborative Kickstart

Stafford & Webb's What is a Wiki? along with Chapter 9 of Wikinomics complement each other nicely in setting the stage for our impending work. The Wikinomics tales of Geek Squad innovation, collaboration via BF2 (exaggerated though it may be), and explosive success after joining forces with Best Buy are exciting - especially with our local connection. Best Buy's own initiatives in creating a more horizontal structure for eliciting ideas and expertise from employees at all levels have to be encouraging to even serious skeptics. The application described by Stafford & Webb for production of their book offers us an example much closer to our own scale. Recognizing each of these as (at least conceptually related) manifestations of the core idea of the Wiki, Benkler's commons-based peer production, we have both theoretical and practical ways to proceed. Between this and our existing outlines and timelines, we should have no problem moving forward confidently and productively.

Inadvertently, I actually read Wikinomics Chapter 9 several weeks ago, and since have casually contemplated wiki as a tool, about how it's scalability and openness might enhance some things within my company. This is the week to think critically about it for the class, and in so doing I find that I really like the possibilities. As an interconnected guidebook for our myriad research procedures, as a list of resources organized geographically, and as a metadata repository for our disparate datasets. Tapping in to the individual specialties and experience of each staff member will make the job easier than the current need for separate sets of instructions, scattered spreadsheets, and worst of all, uncodified personal knowledge not shared with any other personnel. For what it's worth, I see wiki as the most immediately valuable of all the tools and concepts we've surveyed in this class so far. I was already looking forward to seeing what we develop in this class, and after this week I'm also looking forward to translating the concept to my "real-world" business.

More I-35W Bridge Info: MPCA Conference

This past Wednesday and Thursday (2/26-27) I had the opportunity to attend the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Air, Water, and Waste Environmental Conference. Three presentations were offered that included information pertinent to our work in this class. What follows are my notes, and MS Power Point files for all are supposed to be online for every presentation within a matter of days.

General Session: The reality of planning for disasters: I-35 bridge collapse and southeast Minnesota's floods. This was the introductory address for the conference, and the first half concerned the City of Minneapolis' disaster planning and how it affected the response to the I-35W bridge collapse. Since 2002 (essentially, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks), Minneapolis has been taking action to ensure the best possible response to any catastrophic event. The foundation of this process was attendance by planners at an Integrated Emergency Management Course in Mount Weather, Virginia. During this course, numerous disaster scenarios were practiced including chemical release,
terrorist attack, structure collapse, and others. A major part of the course involved identifying shortcomings, and for Minneapolis these were Communications, Dispatch, Structure Collapse & Hazardous Materials readiness, Water Infrastructure security, discontinuous local planning, shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) for responders, and City Hall security. Having identified these, the City was able to address each of them by creating new plans and using federal grants and other resources for the material needs. An important part of this planning was clarification (and in some cases new development) of a regional system of Local Aid Partners - responders from surrounding communities who could coordinate rapidly and know when to stage resources locally versus rush to the scene of any event. The full presentation includes many additional details.

These plans were called in to action in August 2007 with the collapse of the I-35W bridge. The federal government made a Category B Disaster Declaration, freeing some resources and enabling enhanced coordination (I'm not clear on the specifics of this). The presentation identified the major successes derived from the preplanning efforts as the immediate opening of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in coordination with the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the efficient, coordinated, informed response of Mutual Aid Partners. The presenter made it very clear that although this precise scenario was not among those practiced at Mount Weather, the response was dramatically more effective as a result of that course of assessment and subsequent planning. A City official later in the day referred to the entire cooperative operation as "a jewel of a response".

Emergency response: Lessons learned from the bridge collapse and floods.
Presented by Steve Levy, MPCA. This was the second session, and the bridge portion ("Sampling & Monitoring in Emergencies & Disasters") was focused on MPCA efforts rather than the general response and planning. The MPCA's initial involvement was focused on a few primary concerns: Activating the state's EOC, the crushed rail car on the north bank, hazards from that or other vehicles including some in the water, and both providing and managing information for the public in the face of political pressures and information coming from other sources.

The EOC was established downriver at dawn on Friday, and petroleum recon was immediately conducted, with nothing more than trace quantities found. The crushed tanker under the bridge turned out to be filled with harmless plastic pellets, and no tanker or other vehicles containing large quantities of hazardous materials were in the water, damaged, or otherwise a cause for concern. The federal EPA's regional director was already in place for a previously scheduled meeting, and immediately implemented air quality monitoring (going from another "lesson learned" after 9/11) in coordination with the MPCA. Two upstream and four downstream air monitoring stations were set up immediately, checking especially for asbestos, VOCs (volatile organic chemicals), heavy metals, and general particulates. Higher than usual particulate levels where detected for 1-2 days after the collapse, but subsequently no further pollutants or causes for concern outside normal urban ambient air conditions.

Water quality monitoring was already underway as part of the normal operations of the Mississippi River Watershed Organization, with two upstream and three downstream stations. The normal sampling was continued, and enhanced with extra testing and shorter intervals. The MPCA coordinated with MRWO for this enhanced monitoring, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department provided on-river support (ie, boat transport) for some of the downstream sampling. Sedimentation and many possible pollutants were monitored, with no new impacts identified as a result of the bridge collapse. The NTSB controlled the site itself, and was responsible for the physical materials and demolition. They tested for asbestos and monitored concerns about sedimentation and runoff from the brownfields sites (the old industrial lands on both banks under the bridge), again with no problems detected.

All of these "safe" results were able to be effectively provided to the public/media, assuaging some of the immediate public fears and without getting tied up in the politics at play following the collapse.

In conclusion, Mr. Levy also offered the following:
Advice taken from NYC and Oklahoma City: Coordinate with investigators (NTSB, FBI, etc), public sensitivity (especially regarding bodies), document everything before moving anything, carefully select sorting/staging areas, plan routes, minimize double- or multiple-handling of materials, and public access (to site) issues.
Lessons from the I-35W bridge response:
1. Prepare.
2. Activate the response, and organize the response.
3. Managers and Supervisors must allow the work to go on and support it.
4. Handoffs (partnerships, allowing others to be responsible) and Follow-up (long-term programs, affiliations, etc).
And: Stay prepared, nimble, and flexible.

I was unable to attend the third session related to the bridge, as it was concurrent with the second session. Hopefully the Power Point presentation will be posted soon. This is the description from the conference website:

Minnesota's disaster debris recap 2007
"As Minnesotans, we have had some tragic events in 2007 that will continue to shape waste generation, recycling and material handling for our state in years to come. Join in to listen about the events that were nationally recognized as disasters very close to home. There will be presentations on the 35W bridge collapse and the southern Minnesota flood, both events have affected many lives around the state. Discussion will center around what is involved with the handling of a disaster event, emergency site permitting, how is waste handled appropriately, and were we adequately prepared. Join us to listen to the stories of how we took the first steps to ensure public health and safety is managed appropriately in the face of disaster."

Google Wiki

Google has just launched a wiki on their applications platform. The idea behind it is to make the creation and editing of wikis much easier. There is a downside however. To use Google sites you must be signed up for Google apps which you need to do as a company. Below is the direct link to the entry on the Web Worker Daily Blog regarding Google sites. Go check it out and see what you think!

http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/02/27/google-sites-finally-launches/#more-1827