Scott Alan Miller

Monday, October 31, 2005

Pushing the Boundaries of Personal Publishing

Normally I write about technology issues and topics. Today I am going to mention a small project, very briefly, that I am involved in that I think may interest a number of my readership. I have been involved in web logging (blogging) and personal publishing online since 2000 and have been an active part of the Internet community since 1994. In the past year I have expanded the scope of my blogging to include sites like this one as well as podcasting (on-demand syndicated audio blogging). I have come to really enjoy these activities and am going to be teaching a six week class on "New Media and the Internet Lifestyle" sometime in the very near future.

My new project this week is this: My wife, Dominica, and I are travelling to Walt Disney World for seven days. During that time, if Internet access deamons allow, we will be posting to my blog, recording a joint podcast, doing a "live" phone in podcast, providing daily photographs on our Flickrcast and finally doing daily movies of our trip on my vlog.

I think that this is going to be a lot of fun so take a look around at all of the media that we are creating and enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Response to an Anti Blogger

I was doing some research on people who were talking about the school that has banned blogging and I came across a parent, not a parent of a child at that school, who thought that it was probably a good idea and that they wanted to, but did not, keep their own children from using the Internet altogether. She also thought that no one ever read her blog. So that fact that I commented on it probably did not convince her of the safety of blogging. But she also was apparently not aware of how to be safe with blogs herself as she had far too much personal information posted on her blog about herself. Now, she might have made that information up. But that is probably not the case. Anyway, here is my response to her:

But isn't the real issue here that students should be taught not to post personal information in public areas regardless of the technology involved? If those students took pictures of themselves and wrote their phone numbers and address on them and posted them around the town that would be far more dangerous than doing the same on the Internet. The reality is that students need to be educated not to do that anywhere. Don't talk to strangers and all of that. Don't COMMUNICATE with strangers.

Blogging has nothing to do with posting personal information. Like any communication medium it CAN host personal information. Or it can be a format for commenting on news items, reviewing movies, telling fictional stories, providing access to a novel as it is being written, poetry, just about anything you can imagine. Personally, I blog a lot. I have been blogging for over five years. I have several blogs, a few with regular readership. I podcast as well and have up to forty people listen a day. Now, I am an older, male blogger who isn't afraid of having a decent amount of personal information available on the Internet. I am totally aware of the risks and act accordingly as an adult. Children must be far more careful but if we don't teach them to be careful doesn't that do the most harm?

What will happen when those children MUST use modern forms of communication for college, for work, for a normal life? It may not sound normal to those of us who grew up without it. But to children today the Internet is simply the entire world of communication. Not blogging today is getting closer and closer to being the kid whose parents had no telephone when we were kids. Think about how you would feel if that was YOU. You would probably run out and get a party line the day you turned eighteen. And very little on the Internet has ever come close to the dangers of the telephone party line.

The Internet allows a lot of anonymity. But if we chose to over shelter our kids and do not let them know how to be safe - how will they ever know with experimenting. And safety is not an area to learn from mistakes. Best to learn by example. Leave learning by mistake for things like bicycles.

Blogging Banned by Catholics

In the news today is Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, NJ where the school has decided to step directly into the personal lives of its students and ban them from blogging. Not ban them from blogging in school but to ban them from keeping digital journals. Now, when I was in school it was the school that required me to keep a journal. I guess they are now claiming that that action was a mistake and recording one's life is dangerous.

The school makes the outlandish claim that it is doing this for the student's protection. The student's protection? Is blogging now a dangerous passtime? What is really happening is the school does not want to take the time to train its students to be intelligent, responsible and safe Internet denizens. That would be too hard. They don't want to teach students how to do complex web searches so that students understand how people can use information posted to the Internet. They don't want to teach students about the dangers lurking in the world at large. They don't want parents to have to be responsible for their own children. They also don't care about the actual safety of the students.

Don't care about the safety of their students? Yes. What is happening here is the ostrich with its head in the sand. It only seems like safety when your eyes are shut and you don't know how fast a predator is approaching. These students are not learning about the world the way that other students of their same age are. They are not growing and learning in the same ways. They are avoiding issues in the hopes that when they get to be adults (adult being eighteen, of course) that they won't need to be safe anymore. You can't protect someone by sheltering them from normal communications. Sure there can be terrible serial killers who find you by calling your house and seeing if you answer the telephone. But no one ever thinks of not answering the telephone because of it. The US Postal Service can be used to exchange the same "dangerous" personal information as the Internet can. But we don't ban children from using that. But the difference is that we understand that we absolutely must teach our children to use those services in a safe, responsible way. It would never occur to an intelligent person to keep their children from learning to speak just in case they say something that might put them in harms way. Communications is good, it is important, it is vital. In ten years these kids will be behind and may not understand the standard communications mediums being used around them. They might miss out entirely. Or they might experiment without supervision. But I guess experimenting on your own without supervision is safer than having someone teach you how to be safe. At least according to this private school.

Worse yet, by banning blogging the only thing that is happening is a disruption to the normal development of students in the early part of the twenty first century. The school didn't make a rule about giving out personal information. It is totally acceptable to give out that information as long as it isn't in a web based, journalled format. The "home page" paradigm of the 1990's which is just as dangerous is not in question here. Using the telephone isn't in question. Commenting and signing guestbooks on other web sites isn't being banned. This isn't an attack on dangerous Internet usage at all. In fact it is promoting it, in the long run. This is an attack on a piece of modern Internet culture by uneducated and backward educators who find it easier to attack than to learn.

This is a black mark against the private school sector and I hope that this school is truly embarrassed by their foolishness and that other private schools look to them as an example of the dangers of not educating the educators.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Xerox Gives Away Customer Identities

Shame, shame on Xerox for tattling on their customers. Turns out that Xerox got caught by the Electronic Frontier Foundation putting secret tracking codes onto every piece of paper being printed on their colour laser printers. This code tells anyone who cares to look on what printer the paper was printed. Now, the theory is that this is used to track people who are producing counterfeit money. But lets be reasonable. Counterfeiters do NOT use things like laser printers to make false currency. What a ridiculous way to try to scam the system. But what really does come of this is that regular everyday people who are printing things at home are not being tracked. This is America. A country founded on "Common Sense" - the pamphlet not the real thing. What if you could no longer make political or religious statements without being tracked down? More importantly how is this going to affect people trying to start democracies or support churches in other countries where those things are illegal? Now those goverments can track down all of those unwary "revolutionaries"? Apparently Xerox doesn't want Christian churches in Pakistan or free elections in China. They don't want them enough to put the lives of their paying customers on the line for it. I am picking on Xerox because they were the first to get caught but there are many other printer manufacturers doing the same thing like Dell, HP, Brother, Epson, etc. I am truly offended that these companies think so little of their customers. It would be one thing if these companies were clearly making it known that they were providing this tracking information and that it was only (we think that it is only) on colour laser printers and not on black and white printers which cannot be used at all to counterfeit currency. But since there is a rumor that this technology is being used to track things like copied papers who knows what all devices are doing this now. I think that the public deserves some answers. Xerox refused to talk to the media today claiming that they could not disclose any information about what they are involved in for security reasons. Security reasons! They might be selling information about their customers to anyone and everyone and their only answer is silence! How many missionaries or governmental visionaries might die at the hands of evil governments because Xerox helped anti-democratic regimes track them down? Could America have ever been founded if our founding fathers had every note that they wrote or had printed marked so that could have been identified? Xerox has made a strong statement about how they feel about our freedoms. Individuals freedoms as well as those of society. They also are giving Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, et al a big slap in the face. Well, here is one technologist that won't be doing business with Xerox and one Rochestarian that is embarrased that they are located here in our city.

This article is a reprint of the original found on Sheep Guarding Llama.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Open Office 2.0

The great people over at the project have silently released the second stable primary version of their wonderful office suite this morning. It is all ready out on the servers but no official announcement has been made. You can find the version that you need over at ibiblio.