Archives » January, 2003

January 27, 2003

Vacation Notes

  • Relatives: Visited
  • Sights: Seen
  • Tomorrow: Disneyland
  • Desire to go home: Low
  • Vacation: Going well

January 24, 2003

Escape To LA

You can never escape the place you’re born. You may get out, but you keep getting pulled back, over and over again. It may be a little less common for people who were born in a small town and moved to the ciy. But for those of us who migrated in the other direction – from more to less population – the city keeps finding ways to pull you in.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I’m headed down to LA tonight. I hardly think of LA as a city, though. New York is a city. San Fran is a city. Los Angeles is different, in that Downtown is the least exciting part of the place. All the action’s on the fringe. LA is just an endless urban sprawl, a many-armed beast that will eventually consume the entire Pacific Coast.

For those who live in the LA area, and who hate when everything north of San Diego and south of Santa Barbara is called “L.A.”, I’m actually going to Orange County. Anaheim, to be specific, and yes, that does mean I’m going to Disneyland. But there’s much more than that. Most of my family still lives down there, so I’ll be hanging out, visiting relatives, basically just enjoying a week off. And that enjoyment might mean shutting off the computer for a while, so if you don’t see me around here for a while you’ll know why. I do have a laptop, and it does have AOL on it (hooray!), so I might poke my head in here from time to time. Or not. Either way, see you in a week.

January 23, 2003

New Digital Web

Also today, at Digital Web Magazine, User-Centered Design for Large Government Portals and a new column by Alan K’necht, The $ and Sense of IT.

New Boxes And Arrows

New Boxes And Arrows articles: What is a Web Application? and Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization.

January 22, 2003

Language of Copyright

Doc has written up some good thoughts on the Eldred decision over at He says:

I believe Hollywood won because they have successfully repositioned copyright as a property issue. In other words, they successfully urged the world to understand copyright in terms of property. Copyright = property may not be accurate in a strict legal sense, but it still makes common sense, even to the Supreme Court…

This isn’t just a battle of words. It’s a battle of understandings…

“The Commons” and “the public domain” might be legitimate concepts with deep and relevant histories, but they’re too arcane to most of us. […] Communist and Commonist are just a little too close for comfort. Too social. Not private enough.

I think a lot of this has come from the way media companies frame the debate and the language they use. They don’t “sell music”, they “distribute content”. People don’t “copy” songs, they “pirate” or “steal” them. And they speak in absolute terms, saying that any copying is stealing. They tried that back when the casette tape came out, and the VCR, and both times they lost the debate. The concept of Fair Use was too strong, and the courts decided that if you bought a record, and then made a cassette copy for your car, that wasn’t stealing. If you made tapes for all your friends, that was wrong. There was a line there, separating legal from illegal.

Now the record companies are trying it again, saying that digital copying is stealing. And again they’re trying to ignore that line, pretend that it doesn’t exist, pretend that they can have some kind of control over how many times you listen to the song on your computer or copy it onto a CD or a portable MP3 player. And they’re still using the same language. They’re trying to get the media outlets they control to use the language, and getting celebrities to use their words during award shows. They’re trying to spread the meme, and they’re winning.

There’s been a discussion going on about copyright: whether it’s something that the government gives and then revokes after a limited time, or whether it’s something natural and inherent that is wrested away from us by force. You can see the two sides at work there, and they’re trying to debate, but they’re using different language so they’re never going to make any progress. Aaron Swartz seems to represent one extreme, saying that works should be given into the public domain once the creator has recovered the costs of creation. That borders not only on ridiculous but also on communism, and if anything, it strengthens the other side’s arguments. But the other side thinks that copyright should be permanent, something like the deed to a house, that can be passed on to your heirs, or bought and sold. That’s the extreme the media companies hold, that’s the meme they’re selling in the halls of Congress. And Congress is buying it.

Neither of those extremes has the right idea. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The problem with the Eldred decision is that the Supreme Court was swayed by the meme the media industry has been spreading, and they gave Congress the permission to keep spreading it.

January 21, 2003

Book of Lieberman

Adam Felber: Excerpts from the Book of Lieberman.

Chapter xiv
8. And the Way was hard, for the people heeded Joe not. And Joe cried out to the Lord, saying, “God, why have they forsaken me? Have I not treated them with kindness? Why do my numbers fall so low?” 9. And God spoke, saying, “Joe, thou needst only to loosen up a bit.” 10. And Joe said unto the Lord, “No, Lord, for how can I rest when so much wickedness exists in Your world?” 11. And the Lord replied, saying, “Whatever, Joe.” And the Lord did make an Excuse to go elsewhere.

Patent Madness

Another frivolous Web patent, this one on framed pages. I don’t think this one has any more steam than BT’s hyperlink patent, so I’m not going to give it much thought.

The Long Tunnel of XHTML 2.0

In all the hubbub about XHTML 2.0 last week, I somehow missed Hixie’s take on the whole matter. His piece reminded me to be excited about XHTML 2.0, that it’s actually a big step forward in the world of HTML. He runs down all of the new features and their advantages, and dismisses many of the complaints. He even dismisses my chief compalint:

The fact that XHTML2 won’t be widely used before the end of the decade is not a problem.

The main cause of my rant last week was because people (like Mark) seemed to be saying that XHTML2 has to be used right now, you have to ditch everything else you’ve been working on, and if you can’t use it today it’s no good. It’s not going to be like that. There’s still some time before XHTML2 even becomes a Recommendation, and then browser support has to come up to speed, and sites have to adopt it. This will take a while, and older web browsers will have to fall off the map before it can be done. A parallel family of XML/XHTML browsers may eventually spring up, ones that can handle XHTML2 but not HTML4. Evolution will take its course, but it’s not in our hands yet. Right now the power is with the W3, and then it will move to browser makers, and then to us. And then we can start arguing about XHTML2.

Sjoerd Visscher has an XHTML2 weblog. Modern browsers only see it as XML, though, so he uses some fancy XSL to transform it into something they can understand.

January 20, 2003

Equilibrium is Maintained

The Head Lemur is doing the exact opposite of Peter. He’s moving away from periodic essays and starting a weblog (now dead) instead. This is a very good thing, since I’ve long known the Head Lemur from mailing lists and he’s always a feisty old crank. He just might take Peter’s place on my blogroll.

Also: He’s using Radio Userland for his weblog, and he seems to be having a great deal of fun trying to coax clean, valid HTML markup out of it. This fact seems to mesh very well with Dave Winer’s stated position on Tag Soup, which basically equates to, “browsers will render it even if it’s wrong, so why bother learning the right way to do things?”

Well, drat

Peter Merholz has announced that he’s mothballed his site while he comes up with a new focus and a new design for it. He also says he’s not going to be blogging anymore. This is not a good thing. Especially since he claims to be one of the first to use the word “blog”. I always look forward to reading what Peter has to say, even if he only says a couple of things a week. Actually, his site is one of the ones that makes me feel okay about letting my own site go a couple of days without an update (as happened this weekend). If I don’t have anything to write about, then I don’t. Last month I think I skipped a whole week. And it’s sites like Peter’s that reassure me that it’s “okay” to do that. Now, I guess all he can reassure me about is that it’s okay to mothball my site if I want. Which I don’t plan on doing.

The one piece of good news in this announcement is that he says his future plans include more essays. That is a good thing, since the best of his blog entries were basically in essay form anyway, so if he starts posting more of those and less of the shorter ones, I think the total quality of his site will go up. Oh well. I’ll wait patiently while he figures out what he wants to do. Until then, I might have to take him off my blogroll, just out of spite.