aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
We Think Therefore We Are
For more, a UChannel podcast lecture:
In his new book, We-Think , Charlie Leadbeater explores how the web is changing our world, creating a culture in which more people than ever can participate, collaborate and share ideas and information. But participation is not always a good thing: it can just create a cacophony and as the web changes to become more collaborative it leaves users open to invasions of privacy.
Join Charlie Leadbeater at the RSA to consider one of the defining battles of our time – the struggle between people who want to freely share - music, films, ideas, information - and those who want to control this activity, either corporations who want to make money or governments who fear debate and democracy.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The History of the Tivo Remote.
There’s no other remote like it… GIZMODO HAS THE EXCLUSIVE Story of a Peanut: The TiVo Remote’s Untold Past, Present and Future.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Michael Pollan @ Google
You know the drill by now, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Watch for the Q&A.
Via Boing Boing
Saturday, May 03, 2008
What happened to YouTube?
He tells us that YouTube receives about 10 hours of video per minute, and serves up terabytes of data per second and promises an update later. I’ll be curious to know what happened (and will post here too).
Friday, May 02, 2008
What makes a design “Googley”?
A small team gathered to discuss these questions and define the Googley Design Principles:1. Focus on people—their lives, their work, their dreams.
2. Every millisecond counts.
3. Simplicity is powerful.
4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
5. Dare to innovate.
6. Design for the world.
7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
10. Add a human touch.
Jobs is up to something, something big.
So says Robert X. Cringely. He says Apple was quietly shopping around their pro-apps (Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Logic, and Shake) at NAB in Las Vegas and suggests he has figured out what Jobs is up to:
To my knowledge we haven’t yet seen Apple include that H.264 video encoder/decoder chip that I have written Apple is committed to using across its entire Mac/iPod/iPhone line. Could they be inside the new iMacs that were just quietly launched? That would be interesting.
It seems obvious to me, however, that there is only one real reason why Apple would sell off its professional applications and that’s to avoid antitrust problems when/if Apple buys Adobe Systems as I predicted at the beginning of the year. Final Cut Pro competes directly with Adobe Premiere. While in my opinion the Apple video software is clearly better, Jobs couldn’t be at NAB trying to sell Premiere—software he doesn’t yet own. Maybe there’s a planned bait-and-switch, seeing who is interested in Final Cut then trying to shift them to Premiere.
The major point here is that Adobe is in play, or at least Apple thinks so. The company has plenty of cash and stock to do the deal and plenty of incentive, too. Apple’s goal in acquiring Adobe would be to control first Flash and second Adobe’s emerging Air application platform. Adobe announced this week a broad industry initiative to extend Flash to mobile devices, but Apple wasn’t a participant. Why bother if you intend to shortly own Flash outright?
Owning Flash and merging it with QuickTime would give Apple near-total dominance of Internet video, furthering the advantages of iTunes and shoring up in the process the iPod franchise. They’d be giving up a sports car in Final Cut Pro, but end up effectively owning the road instead.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Business Week’s Most Innovative Companies
The top five stay the same from last year—Apple, Google, Toyota, GE, & Microsoft—the bigger news is in the losers: 3m went from 7 to 22, Wal-Mart from 11 to 23, Target from 15 to 24. Starbucks and Dell dropped from the list.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is their cover star:
Q: Few CEOs have taken as much flak as you have for spending on innovation, in both good times and bad. What’s your philosophy?
A: My view is there’s no bad time to innovate. You should be doing it when times are good and when times are tough-and you want to be doing it around things that your customers care about. For us, it’s such a deep-seated belief, I’m not sure we have a choice.
Q: The company has a reputation for frugality. Does that apply to the way you innovate?
A: I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out. When we were [first] trying to acquire customers, we didn’t have money to spend on ad budgets. So we created the associates program, [which lets] any Web site link to us, and we give them a revenue share. We invented one-click shopping so we could make check-out faster. Those things didn’t require big budgets. They required thoughtfulness and focus on the customer.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
YouTube bigger in video than Google is in search
So says Hitwise. Read/WriteWeb:
Traffic analysts Hitwise released new numbers today indicating that while online video sites as a category have seen a 7% drop in traffic year over year since March 2007 - YouTube has seen a remarkable 32% growth in visits during that period. YouTube’s market share in the video sector is now at 73.18%, Hitwise reports.
That’s significantly higher than Google’s all-time market share high-point among search engines. Google saw an all-time high 67% of searches performed in March, also according to Hitwise.
MySpace TV came in second place last month, with just over 9% of visits. Google Video was 3rd at 4%, meaning that the two Google properties combine to hold a staggering 77% marketshare. Hitwise numbers are limited to US internet users and in this case to 68 selected top video websites.
Meanwhile, shockingly, YouTube was NOT blamed for the teen web attack in which a Florida teen lured another into a home to be beaten specifically for a YouTube posting. The Associated Press was among those who were actually able to establish that YouTube was not the problem here.
Monday, April 14, 2008
An ode to elevators
The New Yorker has a major piece on elevators this week. Of all the things in the city to miss, I miss them:
In New York City, home to fifty-eight thousand elevators, there are eleven billion elevator trips a year-thirty million every day-and yet hardly more than two dozen passengers get banged up enough to seek medical attention. The Otis Elevator Company, the world’s oldest and biggest elevator manufacturer, claims that its products carry the equivalent of the world’s population every five days. As the world urbanizes-every year, in developing countries, sixty million people move into cities-the numbers will go up, and up and down.
Two things make tall buildings possible: the steel frame and the safety elevator. The elevator, underrated and overlooked, is to the city what paper is to reading and gunpowder is to war. Without the elevator, there would be no verticality, no density, and, without these, none of the urban advantages of energy efficiency, economic productivity, and cultural ferment. The population of the earth would ooze out over its surface, like an oil slick, and we would spend even more time stuck in traffic or on trains, traversing a vast carapace of concrete. And the elevator is energy-efficient-the counterweight does a great deal of the work, and the new systems these days regenerate electricity. The elevator is a hybrid, by design.
Did I say I miss ‘em? Elevators, we learn, are bo-ring!
Riding elevators, even when you are supposed to be paying attention, for the purpose of writing about them, is a pretty banal enterprise. So it was hard to focus on the matter at hand-not to just ride, expressionless and empty-brained, per usual, noting nothing, except that on the Captivate screen the word of the day was “sitzmark.” Otis has conducted research to find out whether people might better enjoy their time in elevators if it were more of an experience-if it would somehow help to emphasize that they’re in an elevator, hurtling up and down a shaft. Otis found, to little surprise, that people would rather be distracted from that fact. Even elevator music, designed to put passengers at ease, is now so closely associated with elevators that it is no longer widely used.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
In the ongoing saga of Scrabulous, the unauthorized online version of Scrabble that has found many fans on Facebook but has upset Mattel and Hasbro (who own the rights to Scrabble), it appears that RealNetworks and Mattel have finally put out an official version of Scrabble for Facebook—but the problem is that it’s terrible. As the NY Times reports, “Facebook Scrabble takes a long time to load, does not always quickly update to show recent moves, and the words the game will accept do not reflect standard Scrabble dictionaries, or even the English language.” While it’s nice to see that Scrabulous still hasn’t been forced offline, it seems odd that the authorized version is so terrible. It still probably would have made the most sense to just do a deal with the brothers who created Scrabulous (and there are still rumors that a deal has been discussed, but without a decent resolution), but if that doesn’t work, the way to compete is with a better product. Putting out a product that’s not very good isn’t likely to win over many fans.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
License plates shield CA officials from tickets & tolls
With all the fuss recently over red light cameras, Boing Boing points us to a fascinating story about how somewhere around one million Californians have special license plate that basically shield them from toll booth transponders and red light cameras. Basically, the system was originally designed for police, putting their license plate info in a special secret database to shield home addresses from criminals who might want to hurt them. That system is no longer needed because DMV records are all now private. But one of the unintended consequences of the system was that it became nearly impossible to send a remotely recorded ticket (such as via a toll booth reader or a red light camera) to the guilty party—since you couldn’t get their address. It even works in some cases when people are pulled over by police, because once the plate is looked up the record indicates that the plate is in this protected category, so officers often let the driver off for being “protected.”
Monday, April 07, 2008
I live in a town with six state prisons. Recently I joined the advisory board of one of them, the YDC (Youth Development Center). Their Internet access is strictly limited and, I learned, the large majority of inmates receive no visitors.
For the families and friends of those who do receive visitors, Prison Talk is a community website that sounds like it may be an invaluable resource.
Yesterday’s NYTimes Magazine:
Prison Talk, a big board with nearly 150,000 members and 2,500 regular readers a day ...caters to what turns out to be an underserved consumer niche: family and friends of the incarcerated. Prison inmates, whose Internet access is extremely limited, also turn up periodically, usually seeking pen pals through a third party. The site, which costs nothing to join, was founded seven years ago and has drawn around 3.5 million messages, including poetry, small talk, business deals, memoirs, sermons, laments, photo albums and ideological screeds. Like the sprawling American prison system itself, the board has come to constitute a robust social reality - albeit one whose contents can’t be searched with Google or other engines, since Prison Talk is closed to the unregistered.
The board’s activity is propelled by the frustration and enterprise of lonelyhearts who crave contact while fighting boredom and despair. The postings, including those from former inmates, dramatize the widespread effects of imprisonment as vividly as any book since the 2000 exposÃ© “Newjack,” Ted Conover’s chronicle of his year working as a corrections officer in Sing Sing, the maximum-security state prison in New York. And even Conover couldn’t offer the sheer volume of fine-grain logistical detail and jaw-dropping incongruities that surface on Prison Talk: topics on the site include marrying someone in prison; raising children whose parents are imprisoned; loving lifers; curing dry winter skin; preparing for executions; and having fun (jokey guards, nightly dance-offs) behind bars.
The posts themselves are by turns rueful, salacious, puzzled and pleading.... Prison Talk promises support without judgment, and in accordance with the site’s bylaws, uncooperative members are banned. (The site also counsels members to be circumspect with information that might be used against inmates or jeopardize their appeals.)
David Frisk, an aerial photographer and home-automation expert, started Prison Talk in 2001 to helped convicts’ loved ones navigate the prison system. Frisk hatched his idea in a jail cell: he served time in the early ‘90s in a medium-security federal prison for pawning a rifle while on probation for auto theft. Like anyone working online, he has since developed theories about revenue streams. Small but constant banner ads, targeted for his audience, run along the top of Prison Talk.... Frisk, who is known on the site by his screen name, Fed-X, has been accused by detractors of exploiting a vulnerable and largely female membership by encouraging dependence; soliciting contributions as if the site were a charitable cause and not an ad-sponsored business; and promoting dodgy ventures like a print magazine that some subscribers say they never received…
Most Prison Talk members, however, seem fiercely loyal to him, and say they feel deeply beholden to Prison Talk itself. Many of them virtually live on the site, concluding their posts with tickers - countdown widgets, like the ones used on pregnancy and weight-loss boards - showing how much time is left in their chosen inmate’s sentence....
A small band of board activists, led in part by a Prison Talk member named Judy Wickliff, has recently used the site to plan a latter-day Boston Tea Party to protest the disenfranchisement of American prisoners. “No incarceration without representation” is their slogan. In July they plan to bombard legislators with mailed tea bags and a list of proposed reforms to the criminal-justice system. It could be said that Prison Talk is steadily documenting and even galvanizing a subculture, if it weren’t for the February report from the Pew Center on the States that one in 99 people in America is now in prison. Let’s call it a culture, then.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Apple passes Wal-Mart
Over the past few years, we have watched Apple climb the music sales chart courtesy of the iTunes. Last month we learned that Apple passed Best Buy to become the number two retailer in the the US. Now, Apple has ascended to the top of the charts, surpassing Wal-Mart for the first time ever, according to the NPD MusicWatch Survey. [...]
For the music industry, there is a dark side to Apple's ascension to the top of the charts. Buying patterns for digital downloads are different, as customers are far more likely to cherry pick a favorite track or two from an album than purchase the whole thing. In contrast, brick-and-mortar sales are predominantly high-margin CDs. For 2007, that translated into a 10 percent decline in overall music spending according to the NPD Group, and it's a trend that's expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Overall, paid downloads accounted for almost 30 percent of all music sold in January, a number that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. With the Big Four labels throwing off the DRM shackles and experimenting with new delivery models like Last.fm's free streaming service, the future looks bright for digital music distribution.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
GMail: on time, every time, any time.
Introducing, Gmail custom time:
Funny, I can’t find that feature… maybe it was only available today?
Monday, March 31, 2008
Creative Labs not very creative IP solution!
Apparently, many users have been upset that Creative has failed to support certain systems, and a user in the Creative Labs’ forums started releasing drivers to make things actually work or work better. Creative struck back and has removed the various threads in their forums discussing these drivers (thanks to Joe [not me] for sending in the link). Basically, this user, Daniel_K was making Creative products work better, and Creative has forced him to stop, claiming that it’s violating their intellectual property rights. From a legal standpoint, Creative is probably absolutely right. But from a business perspective, the move seems suicidal. Just read a few of the comments in the long thread following the announcement from Creative. Many people were buying Creative products because of Daniel’s mods, and will now look elsewhere. This seems like yet another case of IP laws being used to hold back innovation, rather than encourage it.
And a company choosing to alienate its best customers, rather than build brand loyalty!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
10% of FBook Folks Are Xooglers
The NYTimes says Google’s status as the coolest place to work may be waning, Facebook is now the place to work.
Justin Smith at Inside Facebook did some digging:
Since there’s been a lot of press lately about Googlers jumping ship for Facebook, I thought I’d search Facebook’s network to see how many folks at the company used to work at Google. As it turns out, over 40, or almost 10% - and mostly engineering or product people.
He’s compiled a list
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
When “unlimited” ain’t unlimited
I really hate this kind of scam. And (if/when true) it is a scam! The company may not intend it to be but the customer is the real victim of some marketers’ language—whether sloppy or slick.
A year ago we praised Yahoo! for taking the bold step of offering its email customers unlimited storage space. It was a great concept, but Lee Gomes at the Wall Street Journal recently discovered that we should all start putting scare quotes around “unlimited.” It seems that if you leave too many messages in your Yahoo! Mail inbox, you start running into problems. Gomes got a mysterious error message, followed by several years worth of email disappearing. Yahoo! says it can get the messages back in a few hours (presumably restoring them from backup tapes). But this is still pretty embarrassing for Yahoo!, and it’s unfortunately all too common in the tech world. Companies love to advertise unlimited service when their systems aren’t actually set up for “unlimited” usage. Yahoo! shouldn’t advertise an unlimited service unless it’s actually unlimited, and somebody should have given some thought to what happens when people store a ton of messages in their inbox. Maybe there’s something to be said for Google and Microsoft’s approach: instead of claiming that your service is unlimited, pick limits that are high enough (2 GB in Microsoft’s case, 6 and constantly growing in Google’s) that most users will never have to worry about them, but still give the IT guys a specific number to aim for.
Monday, March 24, 2008
YouTube videos in High Quality
I thought I noticed something. It happened on March 14:
You may have noticed that we’re now giving you the option of watching some YouTube videos in higher quality. We’re making these streams available on certain videos, based upon the source file uploaded to us, and over time you’ll find a greater percentage of the library is available to view in higher quality. This feature applies to all eligible videos uploaded from the YouTube community, and is not restricted to partner content, so everyone can enjoy this upgrade.
How do you watch higher quality videos? On your Account page you’re now able to choose “always show me higher quality when available” or “never show me higher quality.” We suggest you select “always show me...” only if you have a fast internet connection, otherwise you might find that videos don’t play as quickly or smoothly as you’re used to. Higher quality videos also have a link right below the video player which will allow you to select between the normal or higher quality settings.
We want to help everyone understand that YouTube will continue to evolve with the videos you’re creating. We’re especially excited about offering this upgrade in video quality to our community of filmmakers and animators, who have been requesting this feature for some time. As more of you guys produce great-looking videos, we want to make sure they can be seen in all their glory. So we’ll continue to increase quality behind the scenes and make tweaks to support your uploads. (Remember, we can now support uploads up to 1GB in size.)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
reCAPTCHA: Digitizing Books one word at a time
Luis von Ahn is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who developed the CAPTCHA - those squiggly series of letters which help us prove we are human when leaving comments or performing other internet chores that require authentication.
I know this because I listened to him speak with Dr. Moira Gunn in a Tech Nation interview available via IT Conversations. The whole tales worth the telling but the part that merits even more attention is this notion of the reCAPTCHA:
About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent.
Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.
To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult tostore on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.
reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form ofCAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Sometimes, evil works.
Wired’s got an ode to Apple, How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong:
[B]y deliberately flouting the Google mantra, Apple has thrived. When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, the company was struggling to survive. Today it has a market cap of $105 billion, placing it ahead of Dell and behind Intel. Its iPod commands 70 percent of the MP3 player market. Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. The iPhone is reshaping the entire wireless industry. Even the underdog Mac operating system has begun to nibble into Windows’ once-unassailable dominance; last year, its share of the US market topped 6 percent, more than double its portion in 2003.
It’s hard to see how any of this would have happened had Jobs hewed to the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley. Apple creates must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed. It’s hard to see the Mac OS and the iPhone coming out of the same design-by-committee process that produced Microsoft Vista or Dell’s Pocket DJ music player. Likewise, had Apple opened its iTunes-iPod juggernaut to outside developers, the company would have risked turning its uniquely integrated service into a hodgepodge of independent applications - kind of like the rest of the Internet, come to think of it.
And now observers, academics, and even some other companies are taking notes. Because while Apple’s tactics may seem like Industrial Revolution relics, they’ve helped the company position itself ahead of its competitors and at the forefront of the tech industry. Sometimes, evil works.
Bundled unlimited iTunes with iPods?
A report by the Financial Times (registration required) cites unnamed executives who say that Apple is in talks with record labels to offer access to the entire iTunes music library for a lump sum price. The fee would be added as a premium option on an iPod or iPhone, or it could come as a monthly charge. It would allow downloading of any song at any time so long as the purchaser still owns the device, and the songs would be yours to keep.
This latest concept is similar to Nokia’s ”Comes With Music” program set to launch later this year. Nokia is reportedly rolling an $80 fee into the price of compatible phones for one year of access to Nokia’s music store, which includes music from labels like Universal.
Apple’s plan is different in several respects. Since the average iPod owner buys about 20 tracks from the iTunes, Apple wants to make the premium about $20, arguing that it should cover the average consumer’s downloads. Then the owner can make unlimited music downloads from the iTunes Store for the life of the device. Once downloaded, the tracks are yours to keep, even if you get rid of the original iPod or iPhone. And since iPod and phone owners tend to replace devices fairly regularly, the record labels would be getting the fee whether or not the consumer makes any further downloads. Silicon Alley Insider did the math and thinks it’s a good deal all around. But according to the Financial Times’ sources, the labels are looking for numbers closer to the $80 Nokia is reported to be paying.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Yet another reason newspapers are dying: the courts!
Friday’s decision in the Craigslist case in the Seventh Circuit offers yet another reason why newspapers are losing ground-and quickly-to their online competitors: newspapers face tougher laws than the online firms. As (our) Judge Easterbrook’s opinion makes clear, publish a “No Minorities Welcome” ad in the Chicago Tribune and the Trib violates the Fair Housing Act. But put the same ad on Craigslist and, after Friday at least in the Seventh Circuit, Craigslist faces no liability under the FHA given the protection given to it under the Communications Decency Act of 1996. We often talk about media neutrality-the idea that a particular set of rules should apply independent of the medium via which the content is delivered. This is just the opposite-media bias-but not the usual version; this is bias against one medium-classified ads in newspapers-in favor of another-the Internet. [...]
Section 230(c) says that it is intended to protect “Good Samaritan” online providers who jump in to screen offensive content, but it starts with a safe harbor: “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” If a newspaper publishing a discriminatory ad is liable under the Fair Housing Act-the triggering language there is “[t]o make, print, or publish"-we should think that an online service provider would face the same liability. Media neutrality. Section 230(c) seems to say otherwise, and so the Seventh Circuit concludes. Section 230(c) seems to call off the usual rules that cause us to treat the Chicago Tribune as printing and publishing.
I read this case in preparation for a panel tomorrow morning that I am doing at the Internet Video Policy Symposium. One of the key issues there is the extent to which we think media platforms like YouTube should be in the business of filtering content: screen for copyright violations and yet allow user-generated content to flourish. The Craigslist case is another filtering situation. Newspapers typically run with a built-in choke point, but Craigslist doesn’t. But these designs aren’t necessary. Newspapers could just take all ads without filtering classifieds; indeed, they seem to be set up to do that if they can do so legally. I’m not sure that it is meaningful just to use labels like newspapers-filtering presumed-and common carriers-the telephone system-where we assume no filtering.
Instead, we need to focus on what is at stake. The situation in Chicago Lawyers’ offers two separate reasons for looking to push more liability on service providers like Craigslist. The first is to more fully implement the ideas of the Fair Housing Act: if discriminatory ads are offensive in newspapers, they should be offensive on Craigslist. Second, newspapers are in enough trouble without facing legal disabilities compared to the competitors who are leaving them in the dust. So either free the newspapers and further gut the Fair Housing Act or take the FHA seriously and apply it to Craigslist. Doing that would mean rewriting Section 230(c). (This isn’t a universally-held view; see, for example, this post by Eric Goldman.)
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Cops go bonkers over RateMyCop.com
Let’s begin with Radley Balko’s telling of the saga:
So even as police departments across the country are setting up sex offender registries, drug offender registries, and posting the mugs and names of suspected johns online, they also took a great deal umbrage early this month when Gino Sesto set up a site called RateMyCop.com. The premise is simple: Sesto wrote to police departments across the country, and obtained a list of the names and badge numbers of their officers. He then posted the names online in a format broken down by state and city, and encouraged users to rate their experiences with individual officers. All of the information he posted was already open to the public. He didn’t post the identities of any undercover officers.
Police groups went nuts, making the dubious argument that posting the publicly-available names and badge numbers of police officers on the Internet somehow jeopardized the safety of individual officers. Sesto said he had even planned on adding a feature that would allow individual officers to write responses to complaints made against them. But police groups persisted.
Jerry Dyer, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, told Wired the site could give citizens the opportunity to "unfairly malign" individual officers, and said he’d be asking the legislature to pass a law making sites like RateMyCop.com illegal.
On Monday TechDirt noted Arizona police were complaining about it:
The site doesn’t have pictures, addresses, or other personal information on the site. It only lists officers’ names and the department they work for. But this is still too much for the Tempe police department. “If everybody went home everyday and you had the whole world ranking your job, we do make mistakes, but other days we do great things,” said one Tempe police officer. I’ve have a lot more sympathy for the guy if this wasn’t true of a ton of other professions. When I do a stupid blog post, you guys all leave comments saying so. Most restaurants and retail business have complaint cards so customers can complain about bad service. There are a ton of sites where consumers rate hotels, bands, restaurants, books, and a ton of other stuff—such as rating teachers (although some people do want to make that illegal too). The big difference is that police officers have the force of law behind them, so they need to be held to a higher standard than other professions...When a police officer screws up, the result can be innocent people being harrassed, humiliated, arrested, injured or killed.
On Wednesday, Wired’s Threat Level reported that GoDaddy pulled the site:
RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he’d been shut down for “suspicious activity.”
When Sesto got a supervisor on the phone, the company changed its story and claimed the site had surpassed its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit, a claim that Sesto says is nonsense. “How can it be overloaded when it only had 80,00 page views today, and 400,000 yesterday?”
GoDaddy’s is a checkered past:
Unfortunately for the startup, the company it chose for hosting is known to be quick to censor its customers. In January of last year, GoDaddy took down entire computer security website—delisting it from DNS—to get a single, archived mailing list post off the web.
On that occasion, at least, it gave the site’s owner 60 seconds notice. GoDaddy notified Seto by posting its “Oops!” message to his public website.
“You put on my website for me to call you, when you have my phone number?,” says Sesto.
Gideon says the irony’s coming in buckets:
Curiously, police agencies have no problem with Cops Writing Cops, which is a site for cops to trash other cops for not showing them “professional courtesy”.
So a website where cops can complain about, essentially, getting ticketed, arrested and charged for breaking the law is okay, but a website where the public they serve does that is unacceptable.
I conclude in agreement with Radley:
The good news is, the site’s back up, now, though it isn’t clear who’s hosting it.
Me, I think police departments should be required to post all citizen complaints against individual officers online in a searchable database. Individual officers, their union reps, or their departments could post responses or explanations to frivolous claims. Police officers are public servants. Not only that, they’re public servants with the power to arrest, detain, and use lethal force. If certain officers are the subject of repeated complaints and aren’t being properly investigated internally, the public ought to be informed of that. This culture of secrecy—and of intimidating anyone who dares question it—isn’t healthy.
And further agreement with Threat Level’s Kevin Poulsen’s prediction that:
A year from now RateMyCop.com will have won public service awards. Good cops, and clean departments, will have come to think of the site as a friend, and its founders will be sought-after speakers at police gatherings. Hosting companies that reject them on “health and safety” grounds will look like fools and cowards.
If they want to waste their time with legislation, bring it on. Such legislation, says Poulsen, “wouldn’t pass constitutional muster in any court in America.”