January 28, 2006

Blog Software Smackdown

Whether you're new to blogging or an experienced blogger wondering if there's a better blogging system for your needs, check out the Blog Software Smackdown: The Big 3 Reviewed by Vinnie Garcia. It compares Movable Type, WordPress, and Textpattern for those who want to use a self-hosted solution, as opposed to hosted systems such as TypePad, Blogger, and LiveJournal.

There's an interesting comparison chart at the end, which rates the three by such factors as ease of installation, administration, portability across platforms and databases, support community, security and spam blocking, and more. Albeit any review is somewhat subjective, but it nicely emphasizes some of the strengths and weaknesses of each one -- which is indeed helpful when you need to select a system to best fit your needs and level of tech savvy.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

January 15, 2006

Anonymous Online Annoyances Outlawed?

You may want to read this CNet News.com editorial, as this post will make more sense if you do:

Perspective: Create an e-annoyance, go to jail
By Declan McCullagh
Published: January 9, 2006, 4:00 AM PST

From the article:

"Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess."

Note there's apparently a mens rea or intent component. Otherwise, this would end up as yet another anti-spam law (who doesn't find spam quite annoying?). One thought occurred to me about anonymous blogging: What if something is posted anonymously that others may find annoying?

Even if the blogger is ultimately proven innocent, one could still be charged and would have to defend against it to show there was a different intent. I've always thought anonymous blogging was a fairly bad idea -- it's only a matter of time before your identity is discovered, and you'd be instantly accountable for all of your online remarks (just ask the recently unveiled "Underneath Their Robes" blogger, who was, ironically, a federal prosecutor). This could also put a serious chill on free speech, as there could be very good reasons why someone would want to post anonymously for fear of reprisal. Yes, there is prosecutorial discretion, but how well does that spell out the boundaries for us?

Here's a much more common occurrence I see nearly every day, especially in online forums and comment sections: Flame wars or biting remarks directed to another poster, usually resulting in a long, drawn out thread comprising numerous posts (i.e., not just a single passing flame). Many times they are the result of miscommunication and/or different perspectives, some are emotional knee-jerks, but others are just downright nasty. In many forums, participants use screen names, nicknames, aliases, etc. to protect their identity for legitimate reasons. Heck, many people don't post their real e-mail address just so they won't be spammed by spam bots. Will this become the anti-flame law? The "Let's just all get along online" law?

Yes, some cases of online harassment will likely be quite clear due to the pattern, number of incidents, content, etc. In others, well, it's rather like the old Tootsie Pop commercial: How many biting retorts does it take to get to the center of intent? Don't get me wrong, as I've received an e-mail or two from people who related an online harassment incident -- it's scary and it's real, and they would likely be the first to applaud such a law if it did them any good to prevent cyberstalking and harassment. Thus I like the underlying idea, which seems to mirror the telephone harassment laws, but where does one draw the line?

It also doesn't bode well when a law has to be piggybacked on another bill politically, just so no one would shoot it down. One wonders: how well would it have stood on its own? So despite perhaps some good intentions (pardon the pun), I think this is yet another Internet-related law that will be challenged on Constitutional and other grounds. I think I'll stick with the age-old parental advice, "If you can't say anything nice..."

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

New Cell Phone Concierge Service

Quick -- if asked, which mobile communication gadget do you think is most prevalent? I'd have to say it was the cell phone, including all the convergence variations.

That's why I like services that work easily for cell users, and not just the smartphones either. Things like Google SMS -- their free text message service that acts like Google for your phone. It's already helped me on the go many times, both around town and while traveling. Occasionally, it's even useful to send or receive e-mail via an ordinary cell phone and additional free services like Teleflip really make it easy.

Here's a newer one worth checking out: CNet News just covered AskMeNow, a pay-for service (49 cents per question, billed to your cell phone) that employs a research team who tries to answer and respond to your question via a text message within a mere three minutes. There's also a variety of free automated services per the web site: "Weather, Movie Times, 411 listings, Sports Scores, Directions, Horoscopes, Flight Information, Stock Quotes and more."

While there are limits on what they're willing to answer (for obvious reasons), the price is reasonable. If all you have handy is your trusty cell phone, the AskMeNow service just may be able to provide answers missed by other automated services. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds great for travelers, particularly as we all know how limiting those tiny screens are for web surfing. Let someone else's fingers do the walking.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

January 02, 2006

Mighell on Metadata and User Error

Tom Mighell has a great reference post on Inter Alia that links to several informative metadata articles, including discussions of ineffective PDF redactions. Be sure to check out the comments following the Washington Post article, as it features an interesting post by none other than the metadata diva, Donna Payne.

Topic(s):   Electronic Discovery  |  Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)