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   TBTF Log, week of 2000-02-27

This is the TBTF Log, week of 2000-02-27, an experiment in reporting important breaking news in a very timely way. The TBTF newsletter continues unchanged. The most recent issue is TBTF for 2000-02-06: Privacy at the boil.

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Friday, March 03, 2000

3/3/00 3:54:24 PM

  • Geek Pride Festival: April 1, Boston, MA, US. At long last the Boston Geek Pride festival is happening. It's been a long time in the making. Apparently I was the first to raise my paw for a speaking slot when Tim McEachern posted a call in mid-1998. (Good thing geek pride is forever.) This time Tim enlisted the formidable organizing talents of Susan Kaup <sooz at geektalent dot com>. Together they went after sponsors and succeeded in signing up Andover.net. (The merger with VA Linux was announced before the check was cut, but all turned out well.) Here's an announcement that ran on a local mailing list. My only quibble is that it omits one particular featured speaker...
    T H E    G E E K   P R I D E   F E S T I V A L
      Saturday, April 1, 2000
      11am - 12midnight
      The Castle - 130 Columbus Avenue- Boston, MA
      (2 min. walk from Arlington subway station, MBTA green line.)
    About the Festival ...
    The Geek Pride Festival will include a day of music, technology,
    culture and entertainment. The event takes place on Saturday,
    April 1, 2000. The location is The Castle, 130 Columbus Avenue,
    Doors open at 11am and the festival runs until midnight. The
    event is free, all ages and open to the public. The day's
    activities will include a Quake 3 tournament, trivia contest,
    electronic musicians, bands, linux install coordinated by the
    Boston Linux Users Group, technology services/vendor booths
    and local Internet/Web/open source organization booths.
    Featured speakers include Sandy Pentland, Rob Malda, Eric
    Raymond, Chris Locke and David Weinberger.

Thursday, March 02, 2000

3/2/00 11:08:04 PM

  • updated DoubleClick climbs down. Today DoubleClick's CEO said that the company is suspending its plans to connect anonymous data on users' surfing habits with offline data that identifies them. CEO Kevin O'Connor said that DoubleClick has never so far combined any such data, contradicting the USA Today report that touched a match to the issue. O'Connor did not promise the company would never combine its databases, only that it would not do so until government and industry had agreed on privacy standards. The climbdown came after reports of an FTC investigation, inquires by at least two state attornies general, and numerous individual lawsuits filed over the last few weeks.

    The straw that broke DoubleClick's resolve may have been a report by the ubiquitous Richard Smith that Intuit's Web site has been "leaking" personal data to DoubleClick. Smith said that the leakage is not limited to Intuit, but is a widespread problem; DoubleClick enters the picture mainly because it is the largest Web ad broker.

    Phil Agre ran a cogent summary of these developments on his Red Rock Eater mailing list today.

    [Note added 2000-03-03, 11:26 am:] Junkbusters links (all?) 11 press accounts of the DoubleClick move.

3/2/00 12:44:15 PM

  • Two surveys. Gallup recently conducted a survey, asking how news of the recent denial-of-service attacks had affected peoples' perceptions of the Net. (The Washington Post story does not give details of the survey's size or methodology.) Result: overall 1/3 of the respondents say they were worried enough by the news to be less likely to spend money online in the future. Of current Internet users, only 1/4 said they were that worried; of non-users, 1/2.

    National Public Radio has been making much of a survey they conducted with the help of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government. Last November and December NPR asked 1500 adults and 625 children about their use of computers, technology, and the Internet. The results show a refreshing degree of optimism about, and even a fondness for, technology. In this survey the digital divide appears but it does not loom large. The detailed results provide some fascinating glimpses into the minds of Americans. For example, adults were asked whether they ever ask their kids for help with the computer; and separately, kids were asked whether their parents ever ask them for help. Read 'em and weep:

      Adults:  Yes  35%
               No   65
      Kids:    Yes  70%
               No   29
    Here are Americans' concerns about the Internet and its effects on society. The first number is the percentage of respondents who think the issue is a problem, and the second number is the percentage who believe the US government should do something about the problem.
                                        Think it's   Should the
                                        a problem?   gov't. act?
              Kids' access to Net porn     96%         75%
      Kids meeting dangerous strangers     95          79
                  Bomb-making know-how     91          75
                  Porno, adult content     87          61
                       Loss of privacy     84          61
                     False advertising     84          62
                         Violent games     82          51
                           Hate speech     81          53
           Avail. of guns over the Net     77          54

Monday, February 28, 2000

2/28/00 10:43:28 AM

    Boycott Amazon.com
  • Amazon takes a step too far. Last week Amazon.com received their second big "method of doing business" patent, this one for the idea of affiliate programs.

    Amazon has not said what, if anything, it will do with this newly granted patent. But as soon as the company had received a patent on one-click ordering last fall, it sued Barnes & Noble and got an injunction forcing bn.com to dismantle its own single-click system. And Amazon.com has been granted at least 10 broad patents on e-commerce methodologies (see the list gathered by Jon Hedley in this Slashdot discussion).


    I've removed all the Amazon Associate links from the TBTF site and joined the affiliates' program for Powell's Books. Over time I may add a few other such programs to the mix; Borders looks pretty reasonable. I've also signed up as a public supporter of the Amazon.com boycott at NoWebPatents.org. (Note that Richard Stallman was the first to call publicly for a boycott of Amazon.com. I didn't cover his campaign last fall, but I'm on board now.)

    The poster-child of e-commerce has turned down the wrong street in its handling of its intellectual property. Watch over the next few weeks as the press and public begin to sour on Amazon.com. Amazon's aggressive deployment of its patent portfolio may help its stock price in the short run, but over time a spreading boycott and customer defections could hit the company's bottom line.

    One early negative report comes from Dan Gilmore's Web log. Gilmore links to Greg Aharonian's celebration of bad patents and to two Amazon-boycott sites (but not to Stallman's original page). Dave Winer posted a thoughtful essay on Amazon.com's aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of competition, in contrast to the "competition with respect" that Winer's Web-log tool efforts enjoy with respect to Blogger. It's a big-hearted piece and I think Dave deserves a pat on the back for it.

    [Note added 2000-02-28, 10:02 pm:] Tim O'Reilly has publicly urged Amazon to drop its pursuit of the 1-Click patent and posted a page where others can add their public comments to Amazon.

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