Posts by Brock Read
August 29, 2007, 04:07 PM ET
Next month will mark the fourth anniversary of the Recording Industry Association of America’s legal campaign against music piracy, an effort that has seen plenty of college students slapped with thousand-dollar lawsuits. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that has opposed the industry group in court and in public debate, is commemorating the occasion with a caustic report on that lengthy campaign.
“RIAA v. the People: Four Years Later” offers a detailed recap of the recording industry’s lawsuits, which now total nearly 30,000, according to the group’s calculations. The report also profiles the industry’s shifting legal tactics, which have familiarized campus technologists with John Doe subpoenas and pre-litigation notices.
And, since this is the EFF, there are also a few horror stories about college students subjected to spurious suits: One Florida college senior was named in a...Read More
August 28, 2007, 11:11 AM ET
Online courses are supposed to be a boon for commuters who don’t have time to trek to classrooms and for students living on the campus who’d like to work on their own time. But can colleges go too far in exchanging classrooms for computer screens?
LaGuan Fuse, a senior at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, certainly thinks so. In The Current, the campus newspaper, Mr. Fuse castigates the university for offering requisite courses for some degree programs only on the Internet. “This semester, 75 percent of my classes are online,” the student writes, “and 100 percent of that is not by choice.”
Mr. Fuse writes that he arrived at college “expecting lectures, late-night cram sessions, and running late for midterms,” and he argues that the glut of online courses is helping to rob him of that experience. Should colleges worry about alienating people like Mr. Fuse, or are students who demand ...Read More
August 24, 2007, 02:03 PM ET
We’ve noted the growing number of colleges outsourcing their e-mail systems, often to Microsoft or Google. A new U.S. News & World Report article identifies one of the chief reasons to make the move to Gmail or Hotmail: In the eyes of many students, most campus Web-mail clients really stink.
For one thing, in-house e-mail services can barely aspire to the spam-blocking and virus protection that larger operations offer. For another, commercial systems tend to look and feel a bit more polished than their collegiate counterparts.
“If you’re not going to embrace it,” a Northwestern University student says of e-mail outsourcing, “you’ll get left behind.” Is this true? Or are there savvy colleges that seem to be faring well by going it on their own? —Brock ReadRead More
August 23, 2007, 02:03 PM ET
How better to mark the arrival of a much-discussed report on scholarly publishing and technology than to post the document online, in full Web 2.0 glory?
“University Publishing in a Digital Age” — a report released a few weeks ago by Ithaka, a nonprofit group that promotes IT in academe — argues that campus administrators have been slow to react to an uptick in “informal scholarly publication” made possible by the Web. The paper has sparked a good bit of discussion, so the University of Michigan’s Scholarly Publishing Office decided to put it online and solicit public commentary.
The digital copy of the report was created with a tool called CommentPress. The software — which was released the same week as the Ithaka paper — lets Web surfers annotate a common text by creating the digital equivalent of margin notes. CommentPress was designed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, an...Read More
August 21, 2007, 02:09 PM ET
The National Science Foundation, the Public Library of Science, and the San Diego Supercomputing Center are hoping that their new Web site — billed as a YouTube for scientists — will help demystify important research papers.
The site, called SciVee, will allow scientists to upload highly technical papers. But it will also let the researchers post accompanying video presentations that serve as quicker, more approachable guides to their work.
SciVee’s current featured video, “Structural Evolution of the Protein Kinase-Like Superfamily,” doesn’t have nearly the mass-market appeal of lonelygirl15, but the site stresses that its goal is “widespread dissemination and comprehension of science.” To that end, SciVee offers guidance on video production, and it allows professors to make their recordings available as podcasts. —Brock ReadRead More
August 20, 2007, 04:05 PM ET
A good liar, it’s been said, is someone who can tell tales while staring you in the face, betraying nothing. In real life, that can be tough. In the virtual world Second Life, apparently, it’s not as much of a challenge.
Two researchers at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln have completed a study on “deception in cyberspace,” and they’ve hit on something pretty interesting: In text-based chat rooms, people who are lying generally get anxious. But in virtual worlds that let people create avatars, that edginess seems to fade away. “This suggests that ‘wearing a mask’ in cyberspace may reduce anxiety in deceiving others,” the researchers conclude.
People who tell lies in Second Life are more likely to choose fanciful avatars, ones that look nothing like their real-world selves, than virtual truth-tellers are, the study also found.
Second Lifers may or may not find that the report jibes with...Read More
August 20, 2007, 03:43 PM ET
Several colleges have tried turning copyright-infringement notices into “teachable moments”: When officials are told by the entertainment industry that a student has been downloading copyrighted material, they’ll cut that student’s Internet connection until he or she has read the campus computing policy, say, or completed a computing-ethics quiz.
The University of California at Berkeley is taking a tougher approach. Under a new campus policy, students who are identified in copyright complaints will now have their dorm-room computers automatically booted offline for a week. Repeat offenders will have their Internet connections shut down for a month.
The policy was designed, in part, to convince Congress that the university is taking file sharing seriously, according to Dedra Chamberlin, Berkeley’s manager of residential computing services.
But it will also give students an awfully stern...Read More
August 20, 2007, 03:13 PM ET
Say this for IT officials at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland: They’re willing to get their hands dirty. The university is routing a new fiber-optic network through an underground sewer system, ZDNet reports.
The new wires will replace an outdated microwave network and allow the university to maintain a wireless broadband Internet service for about 1,700 students. —Brock ReadRead More
August 17, 2007, 02:00 PM ET
Asking if Wikipedia is becoming a hub for propaganda, Canada’s Globe and Mail points out that an online database has shown 11,000 edits to the encyclopedia made from government computers. Tracking edits made by companies and governments has become a popular pastime this week, since grad student Virgil Griffith created the database, called Wikiscanner.
A significant number of edits made on the Canadian government computers inserted positive comments and removed criticism from articles on Canadian policy, or added negative information to the entries on political foes.
Other government edits espouse individual political and religious beliefs. Despite Wikipedia’s monitoring, one user with an Internet-protocol address at the House of Commons repeatedly removed material from the encyclopedia’s entry on homosexuality, replacing it 24 times with terse statements like “Homosexuality is evil...Read More
August 16, 2007, 04:02 PM ET
The Recording Industry Association of America is kicking off the new school year with a bang: The trade group announced today that it has sent pre-litigation notices to 503 piracy suspects at a whopping 58 different colleges.
For much of this year, the recording industry has sent out batches of the notices to different institutions every month. But the previous batches were only delivered to about 20 colleges at a time. With this month’s letters, the RIAA is casting a much wider net. —Brock ReadRead More