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Home > Weblog w/e 23.9.2000

Tuesday 19 September 2000, 21:50 BST
Translating The Simpsons into French isn't as straightforward as you'd think. [Via Robot Wisdom]
Are web sites which charge subscription fees parasites? Stephen Downes thinks so, in part because they are effectively putting up toll booths on a resource which was originally intended as a free medium of exchange.

The trouble with this analogy is that whereas a tollbooth on a motorway requires me to either pay up or take a longer or less convenient route to my destination, the existence of a subscription-based website in no way hinders my access to other web sites. You can certainly argue that sites which charge for access will have to provide something special to persuade me to pay for them, but that's a long way short of Downes' position.

Downes argues that in the long term a proliferation of subscription sites will slow down the development of the internet, with the owners of such sites gaining a "free ride" on the back of years of work by the engineers who created and developed the internet. He argues that latecomers like the owners of those commercial sites (or people like me, for that matter - I went online in 1992) therefore have an obligation to give something back to the internet by providing content for free. I can go along with that line of reasoning to some extent - one reason for my maintaining a weblog is that I've found so many terrific sites over the years through recommendations in newsgroups, email messages from friends and weblogs - but I'm not convinced that that obligates me to make everything on my web site available at no charge.

If I were an author who wanted to publish a short story via my personal web site, I think that I should have the right to set up some means of getting paid for it. Making some content available for free is definitely a good idea: the fact of the matter is that there are very few sites which have such a high reputation that they could get away without offering any free content at all. A newspaper's site offering this week's stories for free but charging for access to archives seems to me to be giving something back to the internet community without being forced to maintain a potentially expensive free archive. [Via NewsTrolls]
Drunken Night Ends in DeCSS Tattoo, Jail. How long before life imitates BBspot?
Clay Shirky thinks the term "viral marketing" is about due for a round of serious abuse. [Via Tomalak's Realm]
Why wait for ICANN to actually authorise the creation of the .web, .firm or .sex Top Level Domains when you can rush to the US Patent and Trademark Office and effectively reserve them now? Wired News has the story. The worst of it is that I can't really blame companies: the legal status of domain name ownership is so ill-defined that companies would be fools not to protect themselves.
Black Helicopter Autopsy Photos. Get 'em before the Evil Guvmint Agents shut this site down! [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Another scary mass surveillance technique, as reported by Wired News - cameras will soon be capable of recognising the way you walk.

How long will it take for walking in a straight line to become a standard part of having your details taken if you end up being taken to a police station, along with fingerprinting and DNA sampling? I mean, <sarcasm>if you're innocent what have you got to hide?</sarcasm>
Monday 18 September 2000, 22:45 BST
Congratulations to Craig Phillips on winning Big Brother UK. In the end I couldn't decide whether Craig or Anna was the most deserving winner, and judging by the narrow winning margin I wasn't alone. I'm not a fan of Davina McCall, but I thought she handled the final show very well.

Now those of us who've become addicted to Big Brother will have to figure out how to fill that BB-sized hole in our lives, and the cast will have to decide what they'll get up to next. I suspect all of them will make much more than the £70,000 in prize money the show was offering: certainly if the amount of money that Nick bid for the diary room chair in the auction at the weekend is anything to go by, he's not exactly hurting from having been evicted early. [BB auction story via Planet Jon]
Olympic sponsorship has finally crossed the line and drifted into total insanity. If you show up at one of the Games' venues holding a can of Pepsi you will be asked to hand it over. If you walk around carrying a computer which isn't an IBM you'll be asked to cover the maker's name with tape. (What happens if you show up with a type of personal computing product which IBM don't sell, like a Palm or a Psion?) If you're a cafe within the Olympic complex which sells a bacon and egg roll you'll be ordered to remove it from the menu because it's too similar to an Egg McMuffin.

It makes you wonder what the next step will be. Demanding that visitors only wear clothing with approved logos? Refusing admission to visitors who carry a newspaper or magazine published by the wrong media conglomerate?
Courtney Love wants her share of the money Universal is going to get as a result of its lawsuit against MP3.com. Why do I have a feeling she'll have to fight for it? [Via Techdirt]
Alien Tiles. A Rubik's Cube for the internet age? [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Drive-Thru Nude Dancers! [Via the null device]
Talking of the Olympics, William Vourvoulias wrote an informative essay in Feed on the history of the modern Olympics.

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