March 25, 2006
What is Up With Britannica and Wikipedia?
Or for that matter, the London based magazine Nature and Britannica? That's where the dispute lies. Nature conducted a comparative study of accuracy using 50 topics from the venerable encyclopedia and from Wikipedia. Materials were sent to subject experts who compared each entry for accuracy. Nature's experts were anonymous, although some have waived that anonymity and are identified on documents at the Nature web site.
The general conclusion was that Britannica was only marginally better than Wikipedia when it came to reliability. The Nature article was published on December 15, 2005. Now comes Britannica storming back with accusations that the study Nature conducted was fatally flawed. These flaws range from taking articles out of the 1998 yearbook or sending condensed versions or excerpts of lengthier articles. Britannica claims that some of the material attributed to its publication did not, in fact, appear in the Encyclopedia at all. Nature stands by its reporting in spite of this criticism, and has released a document with edited comparisons made by experts.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has wisely stayed out of the fray. His online publication has had its own share of negative publicity with some entries being pranked and politicians writing sanitized revisionist histories of themselves. Articles in the press suggest that the online encyclopedia may be taking a somewhat harder editorial stance in light of these occurrences by freezing an article as stable until a parallel live version becomes better. The problem with any commentary on the Internet has always been the reputation of the source, and the communal mind of the Wikipedia contributors is not immune to this nag.
The Nature article does note that of over 1,000 Nature authors, 70% had heard of Wikipedia, 17% had consulted it on a weekly basis, but less than 10% had helped to update it. The implication from these figures is that "experts" know about Wikipedia, but do not care enough about it to share expertise. A more interesting study would be to measure formal citations to both publications. While that may not measure accuracy, it may show which publication is taken more seriously by students and scholars. If accuracy is not at stake, surely the perception of accuracy is.
March 23, 2006
Creative Commons License Upheld by Dutch Court
Various news organizations are reporting that a court in the Netherlands is upholding the Creative Commons License in a dispute between former MTV V-jay Adam Curry and the Dutch magazine Weekend. The magazine published four pictures of Curry's children taken from the Flickr website. Curry sued as the license, used at Flickr, prevents material for commercial purposes.
March 22, 2006
Iowa Considers Identity Theft Passports
Iowa is proposing the creation of an identity theft passport. These would be given to victims of identity theft that can be presented to the police to help prevent arrest for crimes committed using their names by others. They would also be used with creditors in investigating fraud. The measure is House File 2506.
CNET has the details.
Australian Government Tenatively Warms to ISP Filters
Communications Minister Helen Coonan has said the government has not ruled out a filtering system as proposed by members of the Australian legislature. Prior to this, she had said that the system to filter pornography and violence at the ISP level would be too costly and difficult to implement. Now, apparently, trials are being conducted in Tasmania on such a system with results going to the government shortly.
The Sydney Morning Herald has more details.
March 21, 2006
Microsoft to Miss Vista Target Release Date
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Microsoft will delay the consumer Vista OS release date until January, 2007. The move is designed to improve security in the operating system. Some corporate versions will come out as scheduled in November, 2006. Git-R-Done!
Australia Legislators Propose ISP Feed Filtering
Australian lawmakers have proposed a novel approach to cleaning up Internet pornography. They suggest government action to force Internet providers to send a "clean feed" devoid of pornographic and violent material. Adults would have the option of receiving the unadulterated feed.
Legislators have said that filtering software doesn't work. According to statements reported in The Australian, two-thirds of parents have not installed filters, either due to cost or poor computer literacy. The government rejects the idea on the basis that it would cost $45 million to set up and $33 million to maintain, presumably in Australian dollars.
No word on who would do the filtering, what standards would be in place, or whether the government or others would maintain a database of who decided to receive the, uh, unclean feed. Perhaps someone should suggest this to the FCC. Any proposals here would shake up the telecom industry when they try to offer films such as Wolf Creek and Hostel on IP pay-per-view. Then again, there is the First Amendment with which to contend.
The article in The Australian is here, mate.
Google Sued Over Site Removal
Google is being sued by the web site KinderStart.com for having removed the latter from its search index. Google has specific guidelines for webmaster practices. Non-conformance with these practices can result in Google removing and offending site from the index and from results in partner sites. KinderStart claims it hasn't knowingly violated any of Google's guidelines, although the company does not limit itself to violations posted on the page.
KinderStart had, at one time, page views of approximately 10 million per month until being dropped by Google in its index. Ad revenue generated by carrying Google ads also dropped. Google referrals account for less than 0.01% of of KinderStart's traffic.
KinderStart alleges that Google violated its right to free speech under the First Amendment, and using its "monopoly" power under Section 2 of the Sherman Act to harm a competitor. There are also charges of unfair competition and defamation. KinderStart is seeking certification as a class nationally and as a sub-class in California.
Google has said that the charges are meritless and will defend itself vigorously.
News on this is from ComputerWorld.
March 20, 2006
French To Vote on Competition in Music Downloads
The French National Assembly is scheduled to vote on a little égalité in the music download business, forcing vendors to share copy protection schemes so that players are not necessarily coupled to distributors. This means that an owner of an iPod should be able to buy music from any valid music store operating in France, and owners of other players should be able to buy from the iTunes store. The legislation also introduces penalties for copyright violations.
Judge Orders Google to Turn Over Limited Data in COPA Case
In an opinion released last Friday, Judge James Ware ordered Google to turn over some of the data the government was seeking in defense of the Online Child Protection Act (COPA). The government had continuously narrowed its request for URLs and searches in Google's database, originally numbered in the millions of items, to 50,000 URLs and 5000 sample searches. Of these, the government said its experts would look at 10,000 and 1,000 respectively.
Judge Ware granted the government's request for 50,000 URLs, noting that divorced from personal information, the data was likely to lead to discoverable evidence in the underlying litigation being conducted in Philadelphia. He did not, however, grant the request for sample queries, saying essentially, that the government had queries from AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft which would make the Google request redundant. Judge Ware also considered the privacy aspects of the government's request, given that people make vanity searches of themselves, as well as personal information such as their own social security numbers just to see what's out there. But since he determined that the government did not need Google searches, he did not go beyond raising these issues.
Beyond that, Judge Ware ordered that the information turned over to the government be kept confidential, and that technical representatives from both sides work out a mutually agreeable methodology for producing the information. Google has said that it does not keep documents on hand that contained the information in the form that the government sought. The government has offered to pay for programming to create the data, and Judge Ware included this as a requirement in his order.
A PDF copy of the 21 page order is here.