[On the web]
December 21, 2003"Ideas and energy". OpenDemocracy has an intelligent reading of WSIS from Jamie Cowling (of the UK delegation and IPPR) - who says the summit "served to air crucial concerns", and points out that the challenge is to ensure Tunis does better.
December 12, 2003On the web, WSIS pictures from Caravita, more moonlighting at BBC online, and loads of detailed reports from Andy Carvin.
Also: Wizzy Digital Courier (and Community Networking's take), powerful forces ranged against free software, and Paul Boutin and Nico MacDonald weigh in...
December 11, 2003On the web, Andy Carvin blogs from the summit, Jeff Jarvis writes about how blogs are making possible the "first free and uncensored Iraqi news service," WIKIs continue to excite, Dana Blankenhorn says that the internet is too big (and encryption too powerful) for governments to control, KnowProSE is waiting for news from the Free Software Foundation,, Andy Oram demands some responsible journalism to untangle the spin about ICANN, and Microsoft's patch-free month lasted... one day.
December 10, 2003On the web, Glenn Reynolds accuses the human rights community of doing too little to fight internet censorship, while our own Aaron Scullion is moonlighting for the BBC, writing a summit diary.
The internet fuels child sex tourism but can also combat it, according to international children's organisation Terre des Homme.
"A pornographer can go to Thailand and film pornographic actions, go to a cyber cafe and send the digital images to his own e-mail address," said activist Christa Dammerman. "Then when he goes through customs he has no pornographic pictures on him. Travellers are doing this more and more with mobiles and laptops."
Websites such as Please Disturb can help. It has picked up 103,000 visitors in the two weeks when it launched in 1999 and now receives 300-400 per day.
The speakers offered no tangible evidence, however, on just how effective it has proved in tackling the flourishing worldwide industry.
Claire Regan @ 01:08 PM | Comments (0)On the web, Will Wilkinson urges us to "get over stipulating ideal markets and ideal states, and work harder at understanding how even partially functional markets and states get to be partially functional, as opposed to fully non-functional, in the first place" (via Reason).
Meanwhile: Instapundit wants the summit to listen to Daily Summit's growing thread on censorship in Iran, Vox Pop is cross with Microsoft, Lextext is disturbed by African spin on the ICANN fudge, MobileWhack likes Hello World, and there's a worm in the money machine.
December 09, 2003An intense war between a bunch of girls. If you're tired of all this seriousness - why not take time out for a SISSYFIGHT - "an intense war between a bunch of girls who are all out to ruin each other's popularity and self-esteem."
Grab, scratch, tease, cower, tattle and lick your lollipop until you and your new best friend are the only two left standing. Along the way, pause to wonder how a game so simple - and one now bereft of sponsors or funding (god knows who pays the bandwidth bill) - can support such a vibrant and tight-knit community.
SISSYFIGHT was created by Eric Zimmerman - an academic as well as a game designer. Zimmerman started with a set of abstract principles - "a low technology barrier; a game that was easy to learn and play but deep and complex; gameplay that was intrinsically social; and finally, something that was... smart and ironic" - and built the game from there.
After a prototype played with Post-It notes around a board room table, a beta version was launched online with a tester community who eventually became "the core of the game community, easing new players into the game's social space".
Strikingly, that social space has survived the demise of Word.com - the site that commissioned and paid for the original version. Sissies now chat on over a dozen bulletin boards - the extracurricular board has over 10,000 posts discussing a world outside sissyfight, for example. They enforce an honor code, shun cheats and trolls, and regulate disputes. They also get together in real life - at so called sissy meats and I wouldn't be surprised if there are sissy couples (with sissy offspring) bitching at each other around the world as we speak.
So what's the meaning of this world that's built up round a gaggle of vicious cartoon avatars? If you've never played, you'll have to join in to find out... And if you meet a sissy, do what I do - cower!
David Steven @ 10:30 PM | Comments (47)On the web, Jeff Jarvis is not a happy man. "Instead of worrying about America and the Internet - since we made it happen, after all - maybe the U.N. should worry instead about Iran censoring the Internet. Yes, the U.N. would be a fine organization to run the technology future of the world. No f'ing way! They should pry the Internet out of our dead American hands." (Via Instapundit).
Meanwhile, our post on Iranian censorship has attracted a blizzard of comments. KnowProse wonders who the confusion benefits, and says WSIS technical is on the wrong side of the digital divide (protests from Veni Markovski on this).
December 07, 2003On the web, the digital divide is 'little more than a marketing campaign for Internet service providers' and KnowProSE compares Trinidad and Tobago to Nigeria...
December 06, 2003On the web, the computer science of gerrymandering (via slashdot) and the Economist internet security special (Lawrence Lessig's comments linked to here) has kicked up a storm.
December 05, 2003On the web, open source software in Africa, and at WSIS (more at KnowProSE); Blog.org urges us to see how rich we are, in global terms, while linking to excellent lists of English language weblogs about/from China and Africa; while Many to Many reports that BlogShares is for sale and Notebook Africa is appalled by a two-year wait for a cellphone.
Child power on the internet. The internet has the potential to be used as a powerful tool for the development and safety of our children, a leading campaigner has said. Logging on is often portrayed as a dangerous activity for children with exposure to paedophile groomers and pop-up pornography among the real risks.
But Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner Nigel Williams believes the internet is a largely untapped resource through which youngsters can learn and express themselves in a way like no other. And in some cases it could even save their lives, he said.
Mr Williams, who took up the new watchdog post in October, was previously chief executive of Childnet International. This charity has the two-pronged approach of both specialising in protecting children from abuse on the internet and encouraging its positive use. During his time at the head of the organisation, the father-of-four said he saw chilling examples of how young people can be abused through the internet but added he is keen to stress that the dangers are outweighed by the positive opportunities the medium offers.
The commissioner drew attention to a website recently launched in Northern Ireland by the NSPCC. There4me.com is a confidential website, targeting 12 to 16 year-olds, which offers on-line advice, information and support on a broad range of issues important to teenagers. The service is the result of research that shows as many as two in three youngsters feel unable to talk directly about personal problems. The NSPCC said other research showed that 75% of children have access to the internet and feel comfortable using it. Originally piloted in England and Wales, There4me.com says it has heard from children needing advice on issues such as sexual and physical abuse, bullying at school and relationships.
In the development of the site, the NSPCC sought help from other organisations to ensure that it was able to offer the best advice and remain safe for its users. Microsoft and the National High Technology Crime Unit were consulted to make sure that the site would be accessible to a 12-year-old, but safe from even the most determined hacker. Data encryption, firewalling and some radically new techniques are used to provide the most secure environment possible.
Belfast-born Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray lent his voice to a series of harrowing radio advertisements featuring young people writing a suicide note.He said he believes the internet is a very effective tool to encourage children to seek advice."It is a service that young people will value and use because it provides them with a way to talk on their own terms about things that are worrying them," he said.
Mr Williams said he believed an internet resource such as the website had the potential to save a child's life by offering confidential advice on how to work through a problem before it gets too much to cope with. "This is a great example of how one can use the internet effectively. And it is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential positive uses," he said. "By providing children and young people with this kind of information and confidential advice on-line, There4me.com reaches out to them through a medium we know they use and like. It's easily accessible and many children find it easier to send a short e-mail than to lift the phone and speak to someone. Boys are more likely to make use of a medium like this as they are not as accomplished as girls in talking about how they feel. We have got to use every possible medium we have to reach out to children."
Mr Williams said he thought using the internet also gave children the chance to develop their creativity."There is a great example of 13-year-old Sarah Bowler in England who became very concerned about damage to our environment. She decided to use a website to promote the idea of planting trees to compensate for the amount of pollution caused by different modes of transport. She set one up herself and came up with the idea of including a calculator to count up the number of trees. It was very successful. That's an opportunity that didn't exist before and there should be more of it."
The children's campaigner recommended www.childnetacademy. org as a useful place to see the kinds of positive and fun uses youngsters are finding for the internet.
The NSPCC has released anonymous details of some of the cases dealt with in England and Wales as an illustration of how There4me.com helps children. The charity said one 13-year-old boy contacted the site to talk about the physical abuse he was being subjected to by his father. During these contacts he was encouraged to tell his teacher who was able to help him to contact social services. A transcript from one of his e-mails said: "You're the first person I've told. I find it extremely difficult to talk to people on the phone and even my friends. That's why I'm glad I found this site. I just wish he'd stop hurting me."
Another case cited was that of a young girl whose stepfather was sexually abusing her and possibly her younger siblings too. The NSPCC said that through using the site, the child was able to talk about her ordeal. Through the support of an adviser, the girl was also able to talk to her teacher which resulted in an investigation. The children are now being looked after by the local authority and the matter has gone to court. The girl continues to use the site for support, they said.
December 04, 2003On the web, Karl Auerbach asks which is the real ICANN: "Is ICANN the sword-bearing guardian of the internet as described in ICANN's MoU (and amendments) with the United States and in ICANN's own bylaws? Or is ICANN merely an impotent 'coordinator' that has no power over the IP address allocation systems and DNS root servers except to make suggestions and hope that those who really operate those systems might heed ICANN's non-binding advice?"
December 02, 2003On the web, Esther Dyson worries about social networking, wondering whether services like Plaxo, Friendster, Spoke and LinkedIn are taking us towards "a world of surveillance, not just on the part of governments or even corporations, but widespread peer-to-peer surveillance." Via Many to Many, where David Weinberger argues that "these social networks are debasing the words 'friend' and 'social'."
Jim Moore, meanwhile, believes that technology is giving birth to a "second superpower" dedicated to opposing the United States (see also Eric, Taran and the Register), while First Monday compares how two very different social movements (Stormfront and MoveOn use the net.
December 01, 2003On the web, jailed Chinese blogger Liu Di, aka the Stainless Steel Mouse, has been freed from jail; John Robb is wowed by another Chinese weblog that receives 10 million visitors a day; Instapundit continues to follow rows over the outsourcing of IT jobs; KnowProSE has more to say about the digital divide; and David Wilcox links to a new academic network for those interested in the internet and development.
David Steven @ 01:50 PM | TrackBack
November 29, 2003On the web, KnowProSe highlights some weaknesses in the Business Week article we linked to below: "All statistics in the article are based in the United States and Israel. If you want a better reflection of the World and the Digital Divide, you'll have to count more than Texas and Israel. Anyone who has drawn a graph should know that two data points do not a line make."
Indeed. But let's add a third point - from the Oxford Internet Access survey of usage patterns in the UK.
It claims that most Brits who don't use the internet could do so, but don't want to.
Half are "informed but indifferent; they know someone who could send an email or get information for them but have not bothered to ask for this to be done. An additional 7 percent are proxy users, who have asked for a friend to sign on the Internet on their behalf.
"One in seven are excluded because they do not know anyone who could send get on the Internet on their behalf, and this group divides equally into those who are anti-technology and those who are apathetic."
The Pew Internet and American Life survey, which is buried somewhere there in the Business Week article, makes a similar point. 20% of non-Internet users are Net Evaders, who have access from home but don't use it; 17% are Net Dropouts, once users but no longer so; while only 24% are Truly Disconnected, having "no direct or indirect experience with the Internet."
So where are these data taking us? Maybe towards the conclusion that the digital divide within (at least some) rich countries is narrowing and not proving as much of a problem as has been predicted. Between countries? Well, that's another story...
David Steven @ 02:26 PM | TrackBack
November 26, 2003On the web, KnowProSE (blogging on technology, society, free software, open source and Trinidad and Tobago... and more) is exploring online participation in the summit, while Susan Crawford discusses problems at ICANN (more on ICANN here, here and here).
David Steven @ 02:34 PM | TrackBack
November 25, 2003On the web, and from a few months back, Douglas Clement asks whether innovation requires intellectual property rights and, along the way, provides a good primer on the economics behind WSIS's IP debates.
Clement talks to Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine who argue in a much-talked about paper that patents and copyrights create "intellectual monopolies" which, like any other monopoly, leave us all worse off in the long-run.
According to Clement, Boldrin and Levine have made a "formidable assault on the conventional wisdom about innovation and the need to protect intellectual property."
"The reaction for now is surprise and disbelief," Boldrin admits. "We'll see. In these kinds of things, the relevance is always if people find the suggestion interesting enough that it's worth pushing farther the research. All we have made is a simple theoretical point."
David Steven @ 08:55 AM | TrackBackHello World Summit! This project is a rather artistic way for people to get involved with WSIS - text messages submitted will be projected almost instantly onto locations in Bombay, Geneva - where the pictures will be presented on the famous Jet d'eau - Rio and New York - while video of the projections will be broadcast to summit delegates. The artists say it's "an invitation to take control of public space".
Of course, not everybody is waiting for an invitation.
Aaron Scullion @ 01:56 AM | TrackBack
November 24, 2003On the web, Caspar Henderson, writing on OpenDemocracy's Globolog, casts an eye over the United Nations ("a starved wee critter", whose "legitimacy and competence are as questionable as its finances").
WSIS comes in for a pasting from civil society - "a step back not a step forward." And there's this great quote from William Drake (who works here): "Basically, you have a bunch of dictatorships sitting around discussing which language on freedom of expression they can agree with."
David Steven @ 06:20 PM | TrackBack
November 16, 2003Iran has confirmed its participation at the summit, as we reported yesterday - which is interesting as the country supports a particularly vigorous online culture, with Persian blogs mutliplying by the day.
A few days back, Hossein Derakhshan celebrated the second anniversay of the Persian blogging day, the day he first published a step-by-step guide to creating a Persian weblog.
Hossein, who blogs in both English and Persian, reckons there are now over a 100,000 Persian weblogs in existence (pointing us to this useful Google listing). Iran now has its own version of blogger - PersianBlog
These blogs produce "tons of Persian content everyday about the lives and minds of Iranians in a very important period in the history of Iran, when the religious regime has clearly failed to respond to its own people and is gradually changing," he argues.
In a talk on Persian blogging, Hossein says that blogs are having a real impact on Iranian life, promoting the values of a generation that favours individuality and self expression, providing eye witness accounts of major news events, and building links between those in Iran and the Iranian diaspora.
"If only the language barrier didn't exist, the whole world could see the most accurate and unique insight into the most complicated nation in the mid-east region, and maybe world politicians would really find out what would be the best approach to deal with the Iranian regime," Hossein says - though it's worth visiting his Persian blog even if you don't speak the language, as it provides summaries in English.
Persian blogging has also caught the attention of the world's media - with articles from the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the BBC, Wired, Newsweek, Online Journalism Review et al...
David Steven @ 12:13 PM