The Coolest Thing Ever Today

(an occasional continuing series of the absolutely best things ever of a given 24-hour period)

Anyway. The Coolest Thing Ever Today is this brilliant ASL version of Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains.”

Mr. CaptainValor has an extensive channel list of other sign-interpreted songs. It might be the extreme sleep dep talking, but I have an uber insta-crush on this guy now.

…I have to stop doing that.

IP Linkdump

Before I get back to work, here’s a collection of IP-related links from the past week.

First, the good news:
White House sides with disability rights in WIPO negotiations. Yippee!

Feeling good? Excellent. Lets crush those warm fuzzies with the rest of the links:
New Zealand reintroduces Three Strikes! It’s still awful!
Capitol Records/EMI filed suit against Vimeo for really delightful “Flagpole Sitta” lip-dub viedo.
North Face filing suit against “The South Butt,” a parody clothing company created and run by an 18 year old college kid.
A Vancouver art gallery has been ordered to remove an “anti-Olympics” mural from its front wall.
And, finally, the owner of a record store in Ottawa plead guilty to violating Canadian copyright law when he sold rare and import recordings not licensed for sale in Canada.


Facebook Privacy Changes: Be Informed, Be Very Informed!

Email from my dad this morning:
“I just went on Facebook and agreed to God knows what and perhaps I shall live to regret it.”

…which is, I’m guessing, the reaction a lot of people had to the new Privacy changes Facebook rolled out this week. Unfortunately, nonsense EULAs have trained the average user to just click through legalese looking popups. If you did this, you want to go back into Facebook’s privacy settings and take a look around. By agreeing to Facebook’s new Recommended privacy settings, you just made your entire profile and all associated content open to “Everyone” on Facebook and the Internet. The “Everyone” privacy option was added by Facebook over the summer, but vast majority of users didn’t opt for it, preferring the previous default privacy settings of “Your Networks and Friends.” By making the new default “Everyone,” Facebook hugely impacts how users share their data without fully informing the users of the changes they are making. Why would they do this? Well, heard the term “real time search” being bandied about by the technophiles in your life recently? That’s why. The more information Facebook can get its users to share publicly, the bigger and shinier its offers are to search engines like Bing! and Google. Remember, your friends may be on Facebook, but Facebook Inc. is not your friend. It’s a business, built on the activities and content of its users (that’d be you). The more ways Facebook can find to exploit and monetize that content, the happier it’ll be.

As sketchy as that is, abuse of the default is not the end of the troubling changes at Facebook. There is a category of information Facebook calls “Publicly Available.” This is information that appears when someone attempts to access your profile without the proper permissions (like being your friend or having a Facebook account). Under the previous privacy regime, you could restrict what information was considered “Publicly Available.” Wanna guess what you can do now?

Damn near nothing. The following information is now considered by Facebook to be “Publicly Available”:
-Profile Picture
-Current City
-Pages you are a “fan” of
-Friends list

And here’s the kicker: with the exception of your friends list, you cannot change the privacy settings for any of this. To change the privacy setting of your Friends list, don’t look under “Privacy Setting.” You’ll find that control now buried in your “Friends Settings.”

The last major change in Facebook’s privacy policy is how it shares your information with 3rd party Facebook apps and their developers. The Canadian Privacy Commissioner has previously stated his concerns over the ability of 3rd party developers to collect the personal information of Facebook users, including those who don’t use apps. There used to be an option for those of us who preferred to keep our information from being shared with app developers. Wanna guess what happened to it?

Yep. It’s gone now. 3rd party apps and their developers now have access to all of you “Publicly Available Information” whenever you or a friend of yours adds an app.

So, breakdown:
-Facebook’s Recommended Privacy Settings: NOT RECOMMENDED
-You name, profile pic, gender, current city, networks, friends list and pages you are a “fan” of are all considered to be PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFORMATION which you CANNOT make private
-You can no longer opt out of sharing your info with 3rd party Facebook apps, even if you don’t sign up for them yourself.

For a more detailed analysis of the changes and their implications, here’s some recommended reading:
The EFF: Facebook’s New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Official Report
The ACLU: Facebook Privacy in Transition-But Where is it Heading?

Visual Storytelling

Today, when Peter and I left the house, I grabbed the camera, saying, “I want a cupcake. No, I mostly just want a picture of a cupcake with a candle in it. But then I’ll probably eat it anyway.”

We succeeded in the cupcake part of the mission (there is, believe it or not, a cupcake cafe a block and a half from my house), though I did have to pass up a million (or slightly less) jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered on the sidewalk behind the grocery story (Peter was late for work).

But the thought this ramble brings me to is this one: I stumbled-in-an-internet-way across this lesson plan from the New York Times about illustrated opinion columns. It grounds itself in the work of Maira Kalman, whose bloggings and occasional printed columns are a mix of hand written text, paintings and digital photographs.
I’ve only recently started taking and posting more pictures of my life. It’s quicker for me to take a picture and throw it up than it is to compose what I think of as a decent blog entry (I think in pictures, twitter updates and ten-page essays).

To me, though, a photograph or a drawing or painting is a far more personal method of communication than something written. Is this a holdover from when photographs were scare, intimate objects? Fifteen years ago, you’d have to page through endless albums, sift through dusty shoeboxes, hold curling strips of negatives up to the light if you were looking for a picture. Photographs were magical things to me. You looked at your world through a box, then you send its guts far away, and when the guts came back, there was your world! All flat and square and glossy in a way the world never is normally. And you put those flattened worlds in a book or a box and usually forgot about them. They were never really looked at, except on special occasions, Let’s Embarrass the Children occasions.

On my Flickr account, I have one picture which has been viewed over 250 times since I put it up. Five people I don’t know “call it a favorite.” I’m flattered, really. It’s a picture of my blue Royal typewriter, the one that met with an accident getting shipped home from Texas.

It’s a facile point, perhaps. Obviously, a photo now (a digital photo) isn’t scarce. And the modern teenager can embarrass them-self far more completely photographically with the internet than their parents ever could with baby pictures. But, because of that scarcity connection perhaps, I still feel that a story told with images is far more personal, unique and intimate than one told exclusively with words.

One last thing. I collect found objects, usually pictures and notes. I keep them all tacked to a corkboard in my room by the door. (It was heartbreaking to walk away from that jigsaw puzzle…) The pictures are my favorite. I find a disproportional number of children, grinning in amusement parks or clutching stuffed creatures bigger than them. It’s the artifact, in these cases, that feels special. With found objects, it’s the singularity of the object (and the experience of finding it) that make up the appeal. Digital visual stories (especially of the “handmade” variety, like Kalman’s), the appeal is in the intention. Is this a practical separation between unique artistic intention and creation of an artifact?

And with that, bed time, I think.

I had a lovely birthday.

Good night.

If you’ve been around me for any appreciable length of time in the past few weeks, chances are I started ranting about ACTA at some point, with little noticeable provocation. The phrase, “worst thing in the history of ever” might have crossed my lips.

Well, now you too can have ACTA completely ruin your social viability for the next several weeks! Michael Geist (Canadian academic and IP scholar) has posted a clear, complete, and very pretty ACTA Timeline, complete with links to news articles and leaked documents. It goes all the way back to April of 2004, when ACTA was first proposed at the First Global Congress to Combat Counterfeiting in Brussels.

Get angry.
Make noise.