Flickr v. Free Speech

Flickr has created a giant crap storm (or “a whole lot of makey uppey” according to Heather Champ of Flickr) over the removal of the now famous Obama as Joker magazine cover. I won’t get into all of the details, mainly because everyone has probably already heard of it, but there are some lingering questions/issues that need to be addressed by Flickr right away.

First, contrary to what many are saying, this is most definitely a free speech issue. While it is true that Yahoo is not the government and therefore they are allowed to “censor” users (mainly for violating Flickr’s TOS), this is not a terms of service issue. The reason Yahoo is giving for taking down the photo is that they were given a DMCA takedown notice. Who sent the notice? Was it Time Warner? Or perhaps the White House? (Also, notice how many Time Magazine covers show up in a simple Flickr search. I wonder why none of these images have received takedown notices.)

Regardless of who sent the DMCA notice, the faux magazine cover is clearly parody and should be protected. If a federal law is being used to supress free speech, regardless of who instigated the notice, then it is a violation of the individual’s rights. Of course, the argument here would be whether the image is a parody or not and whether the parody deserves automatic exemption; as I see it, that is the main question.

Second, it is very clear that Flickr is very pro-Obama and while they will tolerate anti-Bush images that also violate copyright, they are intolerant of criticisms of the current administration. While they are within their rights as individuals to believe whatever they want, where in the Flickr TOS does it say they will remove any image they dislike? Why have a TOS if you aren’t going to follow it?

Finally, and this one is on as users, why do we constantly believe the internet is free? Big companies and government don’t see the internet the way we do, and while we might look at an image of an unaltered magazine cover and say that it provides good advertising, corporations don’t always see it that way. Similarly, we might view Flickr as our little playground where we can do what we want (geez, we paid $25 for a pro account), but we are constantly reminded that Flickr can and will do whatever they want and whatever is best for them, even if it screws the users.

Posted via web from Mike Frizzell’s Weblog

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Technology Has Consequences

This poorly titled article by Sally Thomas at First Things is one of the best written pieces on technology in a long time.  By using Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30, she takes apart the utopian idea that digital technology is making us smarter.

As someone who loves technology, I also understand it does indeed have consequences.  In a time when I can pull out my iPhone and look up the most tedious minutia of trivia, I have to understand that doesn’t make me smarter.  I am not actually gaining knowledge, rather I have unlimited access to it.   The question that comes up, then, is what happens when that access is cut off?

iPhone SDK and Bible Software

After Apple announced the iPhone SDK, the wheels in my head started whirling. While there are some pretty good Bible web apps for the iPhone (like the ESV, NAB and NET Bibles), a dedicated app that you could take with you anywhere would be pretty cool. As it is, anyone with a Touch outside of a wi-fi network or an iPhone somewhere that prevents a signal can’t access these apps. What if you want to read the Bible on your iPhone (or iPod Touch, but let’s just assume I mean both) on a plane? You would either have to use another reader like a laptop or, heaven forbid, actually read off of paper. Unacceptable in my mind.

So, with the SDK some enterprising programmer could make a slick Bible app, giving all of us access to a digital Bible. I’m going to go out on a limb and say there will be about a thousand such apps, many of them even being free (especially if they use the KJV). But, given the limitations of iPhone app distribution, it’s going to be awfully hard to make something that’s going to please everyone. Here are some problems I’ve come up with (but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the overall app distribution, because it does make sense).

Price. Ideally, what you’ll want is one app that can handle multiple translations. The problem here is is that each modern translation is going to charge the developer, which will be passed onto you; the more translations, the more money it will cost. For comparison’s sake, Accordance (Mac software) charges $30 per Bible and Olive Tree (mobile software) charges between $16 and $25 per Bible. Take Greek/Hebrew into account and you’re looking at a chunk of change. An app with one translation might be reasonable (although I’m convinced the “sweet spot” for apps will be between $8.99 and $14.99), anything more is going to get pretty expensive.

Add-ons. Is there any indication we will be able to add onto an app once we’ve downloaded it? In other words, can you buy a basic Bible app with one or two translations and then add to it over time? Or, will you have to buy one loaded app for a lot of money (see above)? I don’t really want to have ten apps, one for each translation; this will seriously harsh my workflow. But, since an ebook reader seems like a no-brainer for the iPhone, wouldn’t a Bible app be essentially the same thing?

Trials. This is going to be a small problem for all iPhone apps, not just Bible ones. Since Try Before You Buy is a Mac standard by now, it makes sense for this to make its way onto the iPhone. Suppose you’re on a website that advertises a Bible app that looks pretty shiny, but costs $30 (or whatever). If you have to pony up the cash before trying it, you might be less inclined to buy it. I’m not convinced this will be a major problem, but it could be a nuisance.

As I said, it’s going to be hard to please everyone, especially me. I have a list of requirements for an iPhone Bible app, which means I’ll probably have to write it myself. I’ll leave that post for later.

A Practical Lesson From a Tornado

A good and practical lesson you can learn from a tornado (or any other similar weather-related event) is the absolute necessity of backing up your information.  Imagine what would happen if your computer was destroyed and you lost all of your photos, videos, and important documents. 

Online backup utilities like Mozy or Carbonite offer unlimited data backup for a (relatively) low price while CDs, DVDs, and external harddrives tend to get pretty expensive over time.  Plus, with an online backup, you won’t have to worry about where to keep the physical media.  (And I’m not even making any money on this ad.)

You also should buy some kind of a strong box to keep your important physical documents.  It would really suck if you had a fire or storm and lost your passport, valuable jewels (my wife’s Diamonique ring is safely stored away), or birth certificates.  I always thought it would be cool to have a safety deposit box at the bank, but I’m not sure how much that costs.  (I also want a Swiss or offshore bank account, but that’s more of pipe dream.) 

The point is, keep your stuff backed up and safe just in case.  You think it won’t happen to you, which means it probably will.  So, take some time, no matter where you live, and back up your stuff.  You’ll appreciate it later.