aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Social Networks & the dynamics of popularity
The Financial Times has a long profile of danah boyd and social networks. Lots in it, more or less at random, I’ll quote this:
The millions of people on the networks also hold vast potential for experimentation. In 2004, Duncan Watts and two of his students in the sociology department at Columbia University put a sign on bolt.com, a social network site, and managed to corral 14,341 volunteers. He and his colleagues wanted to show how much people are influenced by other people’s choices - and came up with a result that challenged the notion of causation.
The academics divided the users into groups and asked them to rate a list of previously unknown pop songs by unknown bands, steadily increasing the amount of information the users had about what other people had chosen. “You might expect the same songs to become popular under all conditions,” Watts said. “In fact, as the level of information that people have about each other’s decisions increases, things become more unpredictable. Those that win are not necessarily the best - in fact there is not necessarily such a thing as ‘the best’. Things that are popular tend to become more popular still, so that small, possibly random, fluctuations early on can get ‘locked in’ and generate a large difference in popularity over time. The potential to learn how people behave and influence each other is really exciting.”
GOP Congress addicted to porn
As the Republicans took gay porn money story spreads - to counter the GOP Harold Ford took porn money claim - I’m reminded of a 2005 CREW report, Addicted to Porn: How Members of Congress Benefit from Pornography.
The congressional porn money habit is long-standing and widespread. The CREW press release from March 10, 2005:
Washington, DC,—Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report Addicted to Porn: Members of Congress Accept Political Contributions from Porn Purveyors. The report details how 15 Members of Congress, including 11 Representatives and four Senators, all of whom revile pornography, have accepted campaign contributions from corporations and executives who derive substantial profits from selling pornography.
The report contains four sections: 1) how companies make money from pornography; 2) which companies have PACs that make campaign contributions; 3) which Members of Congress receive these contributions; and 4) the quotes of Members of Congress named in the report who have publicly condemned pornography. In addition, an appendix to the report details the contributions made from corporations and executives to Members of Congress.
CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan stated “it is one thing to be silent on the issue and accept porn purveyor’s contributions. However, these Members of Congress attempt to slap pornographers with fines and legislative restrictions with one hand and turn around and accept porn profits with the other. Our report details the hypocrisy of this ‘skin caucus.’”
Some of the findings of the report: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback - who equates pornography with crack cocaine - accepted $17,000 from porn peddlers. [Right now he’s blocking a federal appellate court judge nomination because the nominee attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian friend.]
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman [up by 8 in his race against Lamont] - who has long campaigned against the growing coarseness of our culture—along with renown gambling addict William Bennet, handed out “Silver Sewer” awards to those who made immoral videos, and who has criticized MTV for having porn stars on the air, accepted over $16,000.
Cong. Fred Upton [not on anyone’s list], who leads the charge against indecency, accepted over $56,000.
Arizona Senator John McCain [here remembered praising Jim Webb’s novel], who claimed to be the “anti-porn” presidential candidate in ads that ran prior to the South Carolina primary, pocketed $46,000 from corporations and executives who profit from porn.
Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director referred to Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) [down in the polls as of Wed, googlebombed to #8] as “the biggest hypocrite of all” for having written a letter to former Vice President Al Gore demanding that he return a contribution from an adult entertainment web site and for sanctimoniously ranting at Viacom executives that they cared more about profits than morality, despite accepting $47,000 in porn profits.
RELATED Porn in the Bush years: 2001 earnings, $9.8 billion. Today, more than $12 billion.
How about a Free Culture badge?
You may recall that the Boy Scouts of LA struck up a collaboration with the MPAA “to teach young people about respecting copyrights.”
Liz Losh, a former scout and the parent of a current cub scout, wonders “How could such a one-sided, moralistic, anti-consumer marketing effort be foisted on a bunch of earnest and community-minded kids?”
[W]e’ve made up a new patch, for a much more challenging “Free Culture” badge, to be earned by intrepid, hard working, patriotic scouts. Here are some of the requirements:
- Appear at the door of a major studio, dressed in your full scout uniform, and try to talk them into allowing educational use of historical films commonly shown in public schools (Amistad, Schindler’s List, etc.)
- Raise money with a bakesale to go across the country to CMG Worldwide in Indianapolis or Intellectual Properties Management (IPM) in Atlanta to convince these organizations to free images associated with Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King and release them into the public domain for use in school projects, such as web pages
- Paint a colorful mural on a graffiti covered wall across the street from the headquarters of the RIAA with the 9 Reasons Digital Media Products Are a Bad Deal for Consumers.
- Using your knot-disentangling skills, visit a hospital or nursing home and help the aged with their DRM-hobbled digital products
- Go to an orphanage, battered children’s home, or juvenile detention facility and show kids how to use Creative Commons resources
- Put in 100 hours of community service at your local library and see the toll that new legislation against patron privacy and public connectivity takes on your local civil servants. Then imagine what it will be like if they have to deal with RIAA and MPAA lawsuits for circulating audio and video content.
Be not afraid
I’ve been waiting for Andrew Sullivan to comment on the Catholic bishops’ attempt to thread the needle - gay people are “objectively disordered” though not “rendered morally defective by this inclination;” we should come out to family, friends and priest but not be public; and priests should go ahead and baptize our children.
No comment from Andrew yet. In the meantime…
HH: But if God is interested in something other than the sincerity of your search for truth, that would be a problem for the seeker, wouldn’t it?
AS: Yes, but since God is truth, how could He possibly object to you trying to seek Him out?
There lies the difference between Christianism and Christianity, between what these fundamentalists preach and what Jesus actually taught. Be not afraid, Jesus told us - always. All some fundamentalists really know is fear. And they mistake fear for faith.
A lapsed Catholic who is far from conservative, I’d like to read the book.
High hopes for GooTube (continued)
Google, which announced this month that it was buying online video site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock, has big plans to expand into video advertising. The firm hasn’t announced exactly what it plans to do with YouTube, but both properties are pushing a new kind of Internet advertising called “click to play.” The ads are essentially online video commercials that don’t play unless a visitor clicks on the image.
Google said it opposes “pre-roll” Web ads, which resemble TV commercials by interrupting site visitors and forcing them to watch a video before they can see the content they are seeking. With Google’s click-to-play ad service, advertisers will be able to select specific Web sites where they want their video ad displayed or allow Google to select the sites, based on whether the audience of a Web site or its content matches that of the advertiser.
Google thinks the ads will do well with movie studios, which could use trailers as click-to-play ads, and with carmakers, who can use video to draw Internet users shopping for a car. But the format remains new and largely untested.
Google should make the YouTube player the ad. And get the message to Comedy Central that fans are promoting their shows not stealing their shows. These fans are prime ad propagating agents. Embrace them.