How safe is your blog?

Last week, without warning, Google shut off more than half a dozen blogs that were hosted using their popular blogging service, blogger. Upon receiving notices that content on these blogs violated copyrights (which the story in The Guardian makes clear is not the case), they simply deleted them, and all their content. Mashable gives a bit more information here.

Whenever this happens, I think about my own writing here on the Big Bad Blog. This entry is the six-hundred-and-sixty-ninth article published here, and while there are a lot of Morning Coffees and poorly written articles that I might care little about, this blog is about giving myself the chance to write and create, and I would like to keep it.

There are, however, measures that can be taken to protect your content:

Host it yourself. Rather than allowing all your work to exist courtesy of the people at Google, LiveJournal or WordPress, get your own domain name and set yourself up outside their sphere of influence. Google will allow you to publish to your own site — though you run the risk that they will still be happy to delete it for you — WordPress, Moveable Type and others make a variety of tools that can be used to host your own blog.

Back it up. Additionally, almost every blog will allow you to back up your content. Do this regularly — particularly if your blog is in the publishing industry’s target-of-the-day category. Things they currently do include: the sending of takedown notices to music for which you have permission to publish, and the believe that linking is stealing.

Everybody who cares to keep their content should back up regularly. Those who do not have 100% control over where their content is stored should back up even more often. Those who post music, video, or summaries (and links to) news content should back up the most — particularly if somebody other than you can shut down your site if threatened by lawyers.

The important thing to remember is that, unless your content is kept on a server in your own home, it is on a machine that somebody else has control over. If you value it, keep a copy of it for yourself, on your own machine — the one on the Internet could disappear at any time, regardless of the esteem to which you hold your host.

I would say more, but I need to go back up the Big Bad Blog now.

The morning coffee and the world’s strongest vagina

This morning’s breaking(!) news is that Google is creating their own Operating System. This is incredible news. For all that the European Commission has tried to nail Microsoft to the wall over Internet Explorer, the real monopoly is — and always has been — Windows. The only options available to users have been Windows, Mac OS (Apples only) or Linux (frightens away non-technical people).

By providing an alternative that (presumably) needs no more technical knowledge than Windows or Macs, but runs on PCs, Google may be introducing competition to the world of Operating Systems.

audi_sculpture

Meet the world’s strongest vagina. Here at the Big Bad Blog, we were previously unaware that they had a vagina weightlifting world record. We are happy that there are still things that take us by surprise, and wonder if there are vagina weightlifting competitions.

Gabe (who is a complete stranger to the Big Bad Blog) has a blog of his own: He is blogging the details of his very strange eviction. It features very strange episodes and landlord/tenant confrontations, and is recommended reading.

A must-read blog

It may be hard to believe, but there are other must-read blogs out there. Yes, there are horizons beyond the Blog that is both Big and Bad. And yes, it is hard to admit it.

Do you want to know the median frequency of nose picking?

Do you need to know about the acute management of the zipper-entrapped penis?

Do you have a deep and abiding need to determine the authenticity of shrunken heads?

If you answered “No” to all of these questions, we will be reviewing your membership in the Big Bad Blog readership. If you said “Yes” to at least one — and we know that you did — you will find NCBI ROFL to be a welcome addition to your daily reading material.
weird_science
Manned by two graduate students with too much time on their hands, the Ladies and/or Gentlemen of NCBI ROFL wander around NCBI online databases (mostly PubMed, from the looks of things), bringing we, the people, the most bizarre, funny and strange research currently found in the worlds of biological and medical science. This is real research about nose picking and navel lint. We could not ask for more.

And for that, Ladies and/or Gentlemen of NCBI ROFL, we at the Big Bad Blog thank you.

For those of you who are curious:
Wikipedia on NCBI
Wikipedia on PubMed

Reporting the news

Yesterday I found an article by Connie Schultz, via the Jeff Jarvis blog Buzz Machine. In the article, Schultz argues that newspapers should be granted special 24-hour exclusivity on their stories.

Essentially, she is arguing that news aggregation, blogs, and other news reporting agencies steal real newspapers’ stories by too-accurately summarizing or rewording those same stories. The newspaper that breaks the story should be allowed to capitalize on it with an exclusive window.

An amusing game to play is “how would this impact the news as we know it”. Imagine on September 11th, 2001, if only one newspaper or TV station was showing news about the terrorist attacks.

Imagine if you did not know where you were when Kennedy was shot, because your local radio station was too late to break the news and were not allowed to report it for 24 hours — you learned the next day.

A plane crashes in the Hudson river – a Twitter exclusive
In January 2009, an airplane crashed in the Hudson river. Immediately, there was coverage on every news station. The next morning — less than 24 hours later — every newspaper in the UK (and possibly worldwide) had pictures and a story on the front page.

The news broke first … on Twitter.

Make no mistake, as a micro-blogging service, Twitter is a publisher. Presumably this means that nobody else would be allowed to mention that a plane had crashed in the Hudson for 24 hours. Exclusivity is exclusivity, after all.

In fact, a vast majority of news probably breaks on Twitter before anywhere else. Twitter has been searching for a way to monetize — perhaps this is it. They can run newspapers out of business, by laying claim to each and every news story which appears there first. One can only read about current events on Twitter, for the first 24 hours.

Of course, many Tweeters would then publish to their own blog first. After all, why pass up that exclusive 24-hour window? Could it be sold? For how much?

If two people are at a newsworthy event, and both blog it immediately, who gets the exclusive window?

Competing against such blogs, newspapers would have to throw out fact-checking. It’s too slow, and someone will have the content blogged within minutes.

Perhaps I go to far.

Perhaps Ms. Schultz’s intent is not that there is an exclusive 24-hour reporting window before facts can be repeated. Perhaps she has not overlooked that reporting — at its core — is all about repeating what you have seen, heard, or read, and redistributing that information.

We are all news aggregators, every one of us. Whether we blog a Morning Coffee each morning, or discuss the latest gossip over coffee in the break room. Even those people who go to a press conference and then write a few paragraphs about it afterwards. This is distributing news that — in most instances — we heard elsewhere. As people get increasingly comfortable online, these are more and more often published: On Twitter, in blogs, on Facebook.

Passing on information by word-of-mouth is natural human behaviour, and it is hardly copyright infringement. And any law that makes the repetition of facts illegal — even if only for a limited time — is a frightening one.

One can only hope that lawmakers see this for what it is: a business in so much trouble that it is not merely requesting billions for a bailout, but asking for free speech to be thrown in the dust bin and to make gossip illegal. It is also dangerous for the newspapers themselves. If they inadvertantly report something already published, they would break their own law. And with a world of blogs out there, they can very rarely be the first at the scene.

Moreover, we must not confuse the technology at play with the function it performs.

The Internet, the printing press, the radio, the television. All can be used to convey information about what is going on in our world. So can two people who happen to be in the same room, speaking to each other.

Yes, there is more to reporting than this, but that is the activity at its core. Sharing gathered information with an audience. Any law that restricts only one means of relaying this information — or otherwise fails to treat all of these equally — is a bad law.

And if it seems silly to stop people from talking about the news in public places, then this proposal needs to be seen in that light.