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Home > Weblog w/e 4.11.2000

Saturday 4 November 2000, 23:30 GMT
An important lesson for Daphne and Celeste: fire your webmaster, now. [Via NTK]
PopPolitics has a good article on the phenomenon of vote-swapping sites, several of which have sprung up in the US in the last few months as leftish voters have realised that giving the Green Party the 5% of the national vote it needs to qualify for federal funds next time round could well end up putting George W Bush in the White House.

I think this is a fascinating development. These stories point up all the strengths and weaknesses of the real internet, the one which gets lost in the glare generated by e-commerce and Old Media. You've got people communicating directly with one another to further their political agendas outside of the arena of party politics, knee-jerk attempts to apply laws to activities made practical by the internet, and an idea which is heavily reliant upon trust between users.

I wonder whether we'll see a British version of this system in the run-up to the next General Election. The two situations aren't completely analagous: we vote for a local MP rather than directly electing a Prime Minister or government, we have a genuine three-party system which makes it harder to predict the result of vote-swapping, and the result in each constituency has an equal bearing on the result of the national election. Nonetheless, tactical voting was a major factor in the 1997 General Election result, and I can see mildly disaffected Labour voters being keen to give the Green Party or a leg-up and provided it wouldn't put the Tories in government.
Friday 3 November 2000, 23:30 GMT
Proof, if it were needed, that Mrs Thatcher still casts an unnervingly long shadow over British politics. Researchers showed 25 MPs and 25 ordinary citizens a set of pictures (including images of Mrs Thatcher, Jeremy Paxman, Denise Van Outen, Tony Blair, a pair of lesbians kissing, a skull and a spider) then measured their emotional reaction to what they were seeing. The picture of She Who Must Be Obeyed got the biggest reaction from the politicians, though one MP reacted most strongly to the picture of Paxman. (I wonder if Michael Howard took part in the survey...) [Via BBC News Online]
Book Magazine has a highly worthwhile interview with Ursula K Le Guin, veteran writer of science fiction and fantasy which appeals to those who wouldn't touch either genre with a bargepole. Happily (unlike, say, Kurt Vonnegut) she doesn't mind being regarded as a science fiction writer. Which is just as well, as she's written at least two of the genre's classic novels (The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed). [Via Yet Another Web Log]
Dancing With Cats. Yes, really. [Via Memepool]
Thursday 2 November 2000, 22:10 GMT
The WWF versus the WWF. The World Wrestling Federation and the World Wildlife Fund came to an understanding about their respective uses of their respective sets of trademarked initials in 1994, but that was before any self-respecting non-techie organisation considered their internet presence to be a significant marketing tool. Now they're going to end up in court to argue over the wrestlers' use of the wwf.com domain. When I first read about this disagreement (in Suck), I thought the conservationists had a point, since they'd been around a lot longer than Vince McMahon's sporting empire, but on reading the Yahoo! News article about the tussle I immediately lost all sympathy for the wildlife enthusiasts' case: the wrestlers own www.wwf.com, but the conservationists own www.wwf.org. It seems to me that this is perfectly fine: the wrestling federation is unquestionably a commercial entity above all else, whereas the conservationists' lobby is a not-for-profit organisation. If everyone would stop blindly chasing .com domains and insisting that they have to own all variations on a given name across all Top Level Domains then we'd all be a lot better off. [Via Suck]
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a more detailed account than the one I linked to the other week of the scornful reception Bill Gates gave to the notion that the IT industry can make a profit by selling its wares to people living on US$1 a day. The more I read about this conference, the more impressed I am with Gates' perspective on the issue. [Via rc3.org]
Tuesday 31 October 2000, 23:00 GMT
Jakob Nielsen on Magritte's The Betrayal of Images. [Via Kottke.org]
Yesterday's Guardian featured a superb article contrasting the hysteria over the likely release of the child killers in the Bulger case with the reaction to a similar incident in Trondheim a year after the Bulger case.

The article is well worth reading in full, but the short version of the story is that in the Norwegian town the killers were regarded as victims rather than criminals, and got plenty of support and supervision from their community to help rehabilitate them, to ensure that one dreadful act in childhood wouldn't blight two more lives unnecessarily. Why was it that in the Bulger case the demand for retribution eclipsed the need for rehabilitation?
I've written approvingly of the ICANN elections in the past, but that's not to say that ICANN isn't in danger of fumbling the ball even as it finally gains some democratic legitimacy.

Quite apart from the possibility that they may award the job of running new Top Level Domains to an organisation which aims to extend intellectual property rights to a ridiculous degree, it looks as if the Board may be bending the rules to delay, or even avoid completely, the day when corporate interests no longer have a majority on the Board which lays down the ground rules for so much of the internet's architecture. I suspect that the newly-elected At Large Board members will use their newly-minted legitimacy to demand some answers to the sort of questions posed by the likes of A Michael Froomkin.
Courtesy of the Microsoft hackers, we now know what exactly MS have been hiding from us all this time. The source code doesn't lie... [Via BBspot]
Sunday 29 October 2000, 22:00 GMT
Wired has an interesting article on the popularity of skinning applications, and sometimes even the user interface of the operating system itself.

I think that skinning makes sense for purely personal computers - though it's a lousy idea on corporate systems where some poor sod is going to have to talk not-particularly-computer-literate users through tasks by phone and adding a whole different user interface just adds to the complexity of the task at hand. Trouble is, every time I've tried to use alternative shells and user interfaces like LiteStep or WindowBlinds I've found that there are just enough glitches and inconsistencies in the way they interact with the software I use every day to outweigh the coolness of having a different, sexy user interface.
The Register knows which files the Microsoft hacker got away with.
Adult Panties, with a Christian Message. [Via the null device]
A seriously lovely Astronomy Picture of the Day. It's a shame that the larger version the article links to has some very noticeable compression artifacts, or this would be my desktop wallpaper for the foreseeable future.

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