Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects people from malicious actions by state and local governments to prevent people from voting. Yes, we have a president of African-American descent. Yes, the United States Supreme Court took no action. However, the majority opinion statement that, “We are a very different nation,” suggests it could be repealed. The argument against maintaining the law seems to be since governments are behaving now no law is needed.

Are they? The DOJ disallowed a Georgia program to cull voters from the databases who might not be citizens. This strikes me as just like the Florida Central Voter File program in 1998-2006 to cull ex-felons from voter lists. Since they just used names, it was highly inaccurate and wrongly disenfranchised thousands in 2000… in Florida… the state which made international headlines as the place unable to count ballots. When Congress renewed it in 2006, “It held extensive hearings and produced voluminous evidence that minority voters continue to face significant obstacles.” [NYT] I may have to go looking for this in the Congressional Record.

With the protests happening in Iran right now about voter irregularities, is this the time to repeal one of the few deterrents against future abuses to erode the significant improvements over the past 40 years?

Monopoly Fears

Something brought up my abandoned Friendster blog, which had a link to fiftymillimeter which used to be my favorite photography site by people in Athens prior to me even moving here. Why “used to be”? Well over a year ago, they stopped posting to the site. Sad, I know. Still, I was curious, Where are they now? I ran across Twitter-Free Fridays looking for Toby Joe Boudroux.

What I found interesting about this post was his approach to whether or not Twitter is or is not a monopoly. I agree with the first part. The last sentence surprised me.

Being at the top of an emerging market segment does not constitute a monopoly. Unfair practices, abuses of that dominance to limit fair access to resources and outlets – those are monopolistic. If Twitter struck a deal with Mozilla that blacklisted other microblogging services, we’d have something to talk about. Opening APIs freely and allowing supplemental markets to emerge hardly seems consistent with railroad barons.

Supplemental markets would be the equivalent of a railroad baron allowing new train stations or business to sell to the customers using the trains. Open APIs allow other corporations to find a niche. However, they are not a direct competitor. For example, with Twitter, the API is not used by Pownce or Jaiku. Friendfeed who fits in both the lifestream market and the micro-blog markets does use the API. More commonly, the Twitter API is used by companies like Summize or Twitpic in searching or posting content.

If economists or lawyers determining whether a company with a large market share is monopolistic are influenced by open APIs creating supplemental markets, then this could be a strategy to avoiding DOJ further scrutiny? At Bbworld / DevCon, a frequent point of pride from the Blackboard folks was the anticipation of Bb9 to have a more open, accessible, and useful API. This API will be able to do everything the current one in the Classic line can currently do. The anticipated additions to this API could benefit many supplemental markets. (Let’s just forget at the same time, they are saying API for the CE/Vista products is a dead-end development path.)

Scoring points with the DOJ (and more importantly the court of public opinion) could never hurt while trying to sue a much smaller competitor like Desire2Learn. Some characterize Bb as not likely to stop until D2L no longer exists. Who knows? I doubt even Chasen knows. Still, it would far fetched to characterize just this as making Blackboard a monopoly.

There are pleny of alternative LMS products to the Blackboard Learning System: Moodle, Sakai, ANGEL, eCollege, and many, many more. Heck, the rumor mill would indicate more and more higher education institutions are considering and even changing to the alternatives. Blackboard acknowleges institutions likely run multiple products. With Bb 9, they encourage people to use the Learning Environment Connector to single sign-on to into the other products. With the Bb9 frame remaining so they know who got them there, of course.  Don’t forget about a Personal Learning Environment,

Certainly I dislike that Blackboard hears my objections and continues to act in ways contrary to them. However, that happens within my own team. Neither group are criminal for ignoring me.

FBI Investigates Legal Activity Also

One of the reasons my photos sets are more full of flowers than buildings is people don’t call the FBI over pictures of flowers. While it is perfectly legal to take pictures of buildings from public spaces, it makes “victims” nervous. No one cares about flowers. I can take all the pictures I want without uncomfortable encounters.

Of course, unless my airline ticket is purchased by a government, I consistently get extra screening. It is a fact of life of neither looking African American, Native American, Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic. Because look like an other, people put me in the extra screening list just in case.

A local student had to sit down with an FBI agent to “prove” he did not look Middle Eastern after photographing chicken rendering plants. Security of the plants called the local police who called the FBI. What would have happened to Jim if he had looked Middle Eastern? Would he have been arrested for doing something perfectly legal?

This is choice from the article:

Filson told Diffly that this is America and he should do what he wants, but when someone looks different in a post-Sept. 11, 2001 world, police may be called.

By the way, police officers arrest photographers who take pictures of them in the middle of an arrest.

Abuse?

EDIT: I almost forgot. A Georgia Tech student from Pakistan was detained for taking video of a building. This student also visited Pakistan and made statements which could easily sound threatening.

Suck It Up And Pay the Price

Doesn’t it always look like this?

  1. User runs script against service.
  2. Script operates so quickly and sucks so much traffic its obvious its a script.
  3. Service’s automates systems detects the abuse.
  4. User gets automated notice about violation of Terms of Use and prevention from accessing the site.
  5. User pitches a fit because he is “famous”.

Services lock out abusive users because people conducting this kind of activity cause slowness. I’ve personally caught people doing this. How I got them to stop usually depended on my ability to contact them. People I knew or others directly knew, a phone call was enough to resolve it.

People outside of my social circle usually got an email and found their account locked. Doing so prevented their scripts from working. At Valdosta State, I would leave instructions at the Helpdesk for the offender to have to contact me in order to regain access to the account. Tyrrannical, I know.

UPDATE: So, it turns out Scoble was using an alpha of Plaxo Pulse. The ideas was to download ~5,000 images of Scoble’s contacts’ email addresses, text names, and text birthdays. Then the software would match them against people in Plaxo. He could then sync Plaxo with his Outlook address book for a good contact list.

He accuses Facebook of singling him out as others have not been caught. (Were the others trying to download and push 5,000 in a few seconds?) He also accuses Facebook of being hypocritical… They import contact information from other sources, but they do not allow anyone to export the same information.

I still think a user hitting 5,000 images for email addresses look like a spammer. Of course, I think Scoble is a spammer … Maybe its confirmation bias? 😀