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I watched a commercial where traffic enforcement officer pulled over a pig in a convertible who hands over his phone when requested for identification. The officer questions it. The pig explains. The officer remains skeptical.

Personally, I think it should continue with the officer saying, “Since you’ve unlocked your phone and handed to me, I will just check your text messaging and phone logs. Oh, you received one while you were driving. Here’s a ticket for texting while driving. More people should just let us know when they are breaking out silly laws this way.”

Also.

Maybe the kids making commercials these days have forgotten the offensive use of “pig” to refer to a police officer. Having a pig and police officer talking to each other seems like skirting really close.

An Open Mind

1. A mind willing to consider new ideas. (source)

Tuesday I had the bounty of serving on a trial jury. Perhaps even more so for being chosen to be the foreperson.

Many people gave me advice for how to get out of serving on the jury. None of it I memorized because I was kind of excited about serving on one. Television and movies distort the reality, so getting to see how they really work was something I wanted to experience.

A coworker decided as a well educated, state employee, minority race, with no criminal record, there was no way I would not be picked. He did not warn me as the sole male on the jury foreperson was a given.

One of the items in the charge by the judge given to us jurors was to keep an open mind. The importance of this is that we as a jury have to have a unanimous decision. A single member in disagreement invalidates it. This is what makes it hard. In our civil trial case, two members went strongly one way and another two members went strongly in an opposite way. Hearing the first two’s arguments the latter two shifted some but not all the way. Nor were the first two going go budge. So at an impasse, I realized it was not going to go anywhere, so I asked a bit about having an open mind to change the frame of the discussion. Then I took some votes on the items I thought we were all in agreement to show that of the four points we already agreed 100% on three. It was only the last point that was in contention. So when I asked about splitting the difference being reasonable, everyone agreed it was.

I think playing the “open mind” card helped. I asked one person about how she knew her position. She knew from the beginning certain things. So everything one lawyer said confirmed everything she thought. The opposing lawyer’s statements were all wrong. I responded that stance was the antithesis of having an open mind. I started to use an example with her as the victim, but the conversation shifted before she could respond. When it came back around to the possibility of splitting the difference, her response was that it was reasonable couched in trying to have an open mind. Everyone shifted their positions to meet in the middle.

In the end, the process hurts. There is no reasonable way for everyone to be completely happy. In any direction we as a jury chose, someone is hurt by our decision. This, I think, is the key insight we as citizens ought to learn and keep in mind for when we vote on representatives. We are picking people who have to make tough decisions about how to represent us and sometimes chose to vote for things we dislike. Though to represent us, sometimes that means having an open mind to speak for the people. All too often elected politicians claim a mandate to vote their will over the peoples’.

Turnitin.com

I’m surprised I have not blogged here about the student lawsuit against Turnitin.com? An anti-plagiarism service, Turnitin has students or faculty members upload papers into the database. By comparing new papers to the database, it gives ratings as to whether it is likely a student plagiarized.

Now the search goes out for any student who has a paper that’s being held by TurnItIn that they did not upload themselves. Students Settle with TurnItIn

In theory I could be someone in this situation. Back in 2005, a coworker asked my mother if someone by my name was related to her. This coworker was taking some classes at the university I attended. Turnitin had threw up a cautionary flag on the Originality Report because it was somewhat similar to something with my name on it. The problem is this product came into use at the university after the time I was a student. So I never submitted anything to it. The department from which I got my degree kept a copy of my papers (many submitted by email) and used this product at the time.

Another possibility is this tidbit about the product: Over 11 Billion Web Pages Crawled & Archived. I was actively blogging before and at the time of the incident. Assuming it could identify my name out of all that content, this match could have come from my blogging.

When I contacted Turnitin about this back in 2005, they told me I would have to remove my paper. I re-explained that I didn’t submit the paper. So Turnitin explained that whoever did put the paper in the system would have to remove it. The guy acknowledged the difficulty of the situation in identifying who posted it.

Stalking Students

On the BLKBRD-L email list is a discussion about proving students are cheating. Any time the topic comes up, someone says a human in a room is the only way to be sure. Naturally, someone else responds with the latest and greatest technology to detect cheating.

In this case, Acxiom offers identity verification:

By matching a student’s directory information (name, address, phone) to our database, we match the student to our database. The student then must answer questions to verify their identity, which may include name, address and date of birth.


The institution never releases directory information so there are no Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations.

However, to complete the course work the student is forced to hand over the information to Acxiom, an unknown and potentially untrusted party. Why should students trust Acxiom when institutions cannot be trusted?

Due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events. Acxiom’s verification capabilities were designed so that student and instructor privacy is a critical feature of our solution. Institutions never receive the data Acxiom uses in this process. They are simply made aware of the pass/fail rates.

In other words, high education institutions cannot be trusted to handle this information. No reason was provided as to why Acxiom can be better trusted. Guess the people reading this would never check to see whether Acxiom has also had data breaches.

This Electronic Freedom Foundation response to Acxiom’s claims their method is more secure was interesting:

True facts about your life are, by definition, pre-compromised. If the bio question is about something already in the consumer file, arguably the best kind of question is about something that is highly unlikely to be in one’s consumer file and even useless commercially–like my pet’s name.

Answering these kinds of questions feels like more of violation of than a preservation of privacy.

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?

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

Athensdating.org

Writing a Blog Post About This Scam I noticed a little black and white sign: “Single? athensdating.org” a while ago. A couple weeks ago it came up in conversation. Today I saw it again. So I visited the site.

First impression: A local site should have images to represent something about the locality. Generic stock photography doesn’t cut it for me. The signup for wanted my home and cell phone numbers.

That sounded phishy to me.

Domaintools.com is a great site for looking up who runs a site. If the owner has selected privacy options with their registrar, then that would be a snag. Fortunately for us, the owner of athensdating.org isn’t hiding.

Owner: NuStar Solutions

The note “Email address is associated with about 4,690 domains” caught my eye. So I looked up NuStar and found this article about these popping up everywhere. (At least DomainTools gave me the info in one shot without having to do the same extensive research.) Lots of stuff online about these signs, who is placing them, and whether or not this is a scam.

I’m just going to assume it is a scam.

Picture info: Writing a Blog Post About This Scam on Flickr from sneezypb

Labels

This started out as a comment to Adrian, but I it got so long it may as well be a post on its own….

The significance of racial labels is not in identifying the genetic makeup of individuals. The significance is in how the labels were used to enforce segregation long before the American Revolution. Before slaves in the United States were freed in 1865, defining who was Black was to identify who was eligible to be held in slavery and have ownership of property. There were grave concerns about mixing owners and slaves resulting in slaves gaining their freedom, especially once capturing them from Africa was no longer allowed. Defining race was about control then. Even in the more than one hundred years after the slaves were freed, defining who was Black was about control. Instead of who could be forced into slavery, the definitions of who is Black identified who could be excluded from power.  The fear was mixed people using the laws to somehow get access to power. Only since Affirmative Action has it become in any way beneficial for others to have less than pure European descent.

Adrian remarked many of us have ancestors which keep us from being purely from one or another group. Chatting with George and Lorenia yesterday, George pointed out even in Europe, southern Spain and Italy confounds the stereotype. Our increasing understanding of genetics and culture invalidates race as a useful means of describing individuals. Individuals have genetic markers linking them all over the globe. We are one species. My favorite example PBS show indicating the women described as Amazons moved to western Mongolia.

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” – Baha’u’llah

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.

Loving Day 2008

The plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving

Image via Wikipedia

Did you do anything for Loving Day? Do you even know what it is? From the site….

Loving Day is an educational community project. The name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Loving Day celebrations commemorate the anniversary of the Loving decision every year on or around June 12th.

This is personal for me.

When my parents went to get married (after this decision), the Justice of the Peace refused to grant them the marriage license, citing a state anti-miscegenation law. Lately, Mom has been adding to the story: This was a huge deal within my parent’s circle of friends. Some, excited at the prospects of making national news, encouraged them to fight the decision and sue the state to grant the marriage just like Loving v. Virginia. Other encouraged them to avoid the confrontation and attention.

In college, I found a death threat written to Mom once about her dating Dad. When I confronted her about this, she told me this was actually benign compared to the face-to-face threats and even the rifle the neighbor across the street at times trained on my dad.

So my parents were intimidated against making a similar fight. They found someone in another state who willingly married them without the fuss.

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