Masters blogging

A lot of my writing on this site will now chronicle the trials and tribulations of obtaining a graduate degree while working full-time, trying to maintain a marriage and family, and hopefully still getting a little exercise along the way. Something I’ve been pulling together for some time and which … Read more

Digital rights and access under assault

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of access you want, or what you want access to. You’re under assault, plain and simple. With the news last week that Bell and Telus customers will pay at both ends for text messages and the obscene Rogers iPhone rate packages, we just have two more issues to deal with on this front.

Ed. Note: It should be noted that since I started jotting down notes for this post, Rogers has improved their data packages, but only for a two month promotional offer and not to the point where the prices aren’t still ridiculously high.

Reusing a legally purchased song on multiple personal devices, saving a recorded program for private viewing later, or even embedding a copyrighted video for comment on your blog could all land you in trouble if C-61 passes in the fall. Mind you, cellular rate plan issues are part of a much larger problem that includes throttling. Web companies understand the implications to their businesses. Throttling is mostly related to large bandwidth activities like torrenting, and would seem to be moving in lockstep with copyright issues. After all, making it illegal to possess something is more effective if you choke the ability to get it in the first place.

If all this isn’t enough, Canada’s complicity in ACTA will ensure that your digital equipment can be confiscated due to nothing more than an over-zealous border guard. Whether you got it back or not, it may well not include what you originally had on it. Plus, it would seem a Biker-chick lovin’ industry minister did a did a better job standing up for our rights than the current one. Mind you, today Jim Prentice did call out for Telus and Bell to justify their messaging grab.

Read moreDigital rights and access under assault

Canned responses to C-61 letters

While I haven’t yet printed, signed and sent any of the copyright petitions, I did manage a bit of an email writing spree regarding this hideous proposed legislation. Would it surprise you to know that I haven’t had a real response from anyone yet?

To be fair, our politicians might just be getting a tiny earful on this one, so I’ll reduce my expectations to … nil? I would have thought Ujjal Dosanjh (my MP) might have responded directly. However, why would he start doing anything now?

The first email I sent directly to him and the second I sent to Stephen Harper, Josee Verner and Jim Prentice, with copies to Ujjal, Stephane Dion and Jack Layton.

My email notes

The snippet below is the substantive gist of the first email:

As long as I’m not distributing what I buy for profit, I can’t understand why the Harper government is so willing to pander to business in this regard. I can’t understand why governments are so slow to understand that using my own media on multiple devices does not hurt the copyright holder. And, in fact, sharing will generally increase sales.

Copyright law this stringent does nothing for Canadian citizens and stifles the creativity and ingenuity that open standards and open access to technology and digital media creates. Plus, this is doomed to failure in any regard as people will simply expend more effort to go further underground in how they access, acquire and share digital media.

Read moreCanned responses to C-61 letters

Does tech make us stupid, or just rude?

OK, so maybe not stupid, but apparently lazy. At least according to The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Carr it does. Based on the length of the piece, his writing chops are certainly still intact.

Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do …. I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet.

Carr seems to think the web’s delivery format, and the sheer volume of information he is exposed to, is making it harder for him to concentrate on longer, more involved reading. The fact that so much information, including that used for research, is often just a click or two away and digestible an excerpt at a time, says Carr, is making us impatient. He says that his friends agree:

I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether.

But, is this about capacity to read more deeply or just not taking the time? I’m probably as guilty as anyone of not reading as much, but I do try to make sure I have a book going most of the time. I actually relish the opportunity to get into a novel or work of nonfiction. I certainly don’t find it any harder to concentrate, despite the fact that I follow lots of feeds and scan plenty of online content on a daily basis.

The Technology Liberation Front‘s Adam Thierrer feels reasonably positive about the change communications tech is bringing:

The death of media scarcity and the rise of information abundance was bound to have profound implications for how we read, write and communicate—in most ways for the better, but perhaps in some ways for the worse. I doubt we’ll ever have a Shakespeare arising from the world of Twitter, for example, but I believe we are better off for having technologies and media platforms like it in our lives.

Read moreDoes tech make us stupid, or just rude?

A reversable food crisis

The biggest problem with the current food crisis is not that it exists, but that it never should have happened in the first place and can definitely be reversed. And it’s not just the wrong-headed rush to create biofuels, but the products our food system produces the most of (and how it produces them), which exacerbate the reduced availability of crops to directly feed people.


When you consider that the 25% of US corn crops currently used to produce ethanol will rise to over 30% next year, and is mandated by George Bush to double present levels by 2015, there would seem to be no relief on the horizon. As the flavour of the day, Corn’s price is going up and farmers are beginning to convert other crops to corn in order to cash in. It’s an answer to high oil prices, but it hardly seems the right one. We use roughly the energy we produce in making biofuel, and there are environmental impacts to that production, too.

Read moreA reversable food crisis