Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hire a better lawyer than the other guy

I heard about this case a week or so ago, where a woman is being sued by the rental company that manages the apartment she used to live in, because she tweeted that there was mold in the place and they didn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

In a perfect world, she would clearly win on first amendment grounds, but this is a defamation suit, where “proof” depends more on who has the better lawyer than who’s telling the truth. If she can “prove” better than the realty company that she had a moldy apartment when she made the statement, she wins. If she can’t, she loses. If her lawyer can paint her as more trustworthy than the shyster realty guy quoted in the papers, she wins. If their lawyers paint her as a flaky tenant who was late with her rent half the time, she loses.

So the first lesson for people who blog, use Twitter, etc., is the one stated at the end of the article: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, and don’t lie. But the unstated — and arguably more important — lesson really is: Anyone can sue you, regardless of how frivolous their suit or how it impinges your right as an American to speak your mind, regardless of how factually wrong you might be when you do it. So hire a better lawyer than the fucker who sues you.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

*tap*tap* Hello? Is this thing on?

Just wondering if anyone’s out there.

Since Ynnej has moved to a farm and Olya is in the outback, I expected to hear less from my readers, but it’s been so quiet around here for so many months, I’m wondering if this here journal has any readers left at all.

I haven’t heard from readers like Brian, Kathy, Jen, Will, Yuliya, or even Mr. Crack, in eons.

Leave me a comment if you’re out there. It’s lonely in here.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Top 5



45 Beautiful Motion Blur Photos



As if being a sports mascot wasn’t bad enough

History of the browser user-agent string
Aaron Andersen explains one of the many reasons why web developers get grumpy.

Blogging from 25,000 feet
Virgin introduces in-flight Wifi.

Holy zeppelin!
Airship Ventures offers rides over the Bay Area in a real zeppelin, taking off from historic Moffett Field.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Top 5

The sinister 4 a.m. conspiracy: Uncovered!



Google Chrome
Comics artist Scott McCloud helps the Google team de-tech-ify the company’s open source browser project.
www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome



FuturamaMath.com
Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald teaches math at NC’s Appalachian State University, and gives the couch potatoes-cum-mathletes a few things to ponder.
www.FuturamaMath.com

Yay! shaBangs are finally here!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQzZCSs_5Do

Get Crafty! Episode 6
Scrapblog gets creative in the videos they produce to show people how their site works. The results are way funnier than the normal how-to screencast.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5LNHmwb1fw

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where have all the citations gone?

A few lifetimes ago I was a marketing and communications specialist for nonprofits, most notably for Bay Area Action and its later incarnation as Acterra.

For a few years I wrote and/or edited weekly email newsletters and action alerts. I started doing this for the Headwaters Forest Project at BAA, then created a weekly EcoCalendar of events all around the Bay Area, and later founded Acterra's first general email newsletter.

During that span of about eight years, I also performed a lot of other communications functions, especially surrounding the Headwaters issue. For a few years my website and email list were the best sources for news on the controversies emanating from the North Coast, and I fielded inquiries from small and big sources alike, everyone from elementary school students to the big media outlets such as Time and CNN.

I spoke at events (the Green Party's state convention comes to mind) and universities (I presented to a Stanford law class once, which was a bit unnerving, but then I reminded myself they were just students), I did radio interviews, I fielded calls and emails and faxes from reporters all over the world, and my email list contained addresses from places as far-flung as Japan and Australia and people from the press, government, and even Hollywood.

Copy this, please

This all happened in a time when the migration of such information to the Internet was much, much less frequent, and a lot harder to do. Nevertheless, lots of people copied my emails and forwarded them along to others. Which is what we wanted. Unlike commercial material, for which one might have copy-protection concerns, we wanted this information spread far and wide. Granted, we didn't want people to re-edit the information, so I simply attached a footer to my email template that stated that permission was thereby granted to forward the email in its entirety, for non-commercial purposes.

And people did it. In droves. They forwarded it on to their friends and family, co-workers, whomever. Some maintained their own large lists of concerned citizens interested in environmental issues, and they sent my emails along to them. Others posted my newsletters and action alerts on their AOL and Geocities homepages, on university listservs, and lots of other places.

Here are a few examples, still archived in various niches of the 'net:
Later, as search engines became more adept at crawling and indexing the content of the web (this had all occurred before Google existed), I'd be doing Headwaters research on AltaVista or Yahoo! or Dmoz, and come I'd across some of my old emails and articles scattered across the web.

Fading way

In more recent years I've noticed that Google's algorithm seems to be devaluing these old (nearly ancient in Internet time) posts, probably for fairly legitimate reasons (the HTML of those old web pages would not withstand semantic rigors of modern search technology), so they rarely show up in results, or if they do, they're buried many, many, many results pages deep. It's probably that a lot of those pages are simply gone now too, as people fold their old accounts or Geocities pages get closed down, or whatever.

When I first started noticing this, I must admit that it was a little sad, as it seemed almost as if my contributions were disappearing from the universe. I know this is not strictly true, but in a world where we seem to rely increasingly on Google to provide us with what we want to know (I'm certainly guilty of this reliance), it's disappointing that the content of those older articles is devalued in large part because the method used for archiving them did not use the modern HTML standards.

It's a little like devaluing the best encyclopedia in the (physical) library because its publishers have not yet made it available online. Perhaps the actual content contained in that encyclopedia is of better quality than anything published on the web, but most people would never know it because they'd never see it.

I'm conflicted about this on many levels. Partly because I believe passionately that people should have access to the best quality information (so I want people to go the library, or wherever they need to go for that single best source), but I also want that high-quality information to be much more widely accessible than that. Let's face it, the researcher in Prague seeking information on West Coast salmonids can't easily get the 700-page document off the dusty shelf of the tiny library of the Northcoast Environmental Center in California, can he? But what if it's the single best source, and it's not available online at all?

Technology will catch up

I believe (nearly) all of these documents will be available online someday. It may be a decade or more away, but it will happen.

And I will do my part. I have archived all my data from the Headwaters Forest years, and all my BAA articles and photos, and while they're not really in any usable order right now, I am confident that technology will continue to advance in ways that make the data easier to sort and publish. It's already been happening, with sites like Flickr making it easier to share photos, and tools like blogs and wikis making it easier to publish and collaborate.

Not all my contributions have faded away

Interestingly, search technology has more recently broadened to include the content of printed books too. Google Book Search began scanning the collections of several leading universities in 2004. While Google's tool is still in beta and it comprises mostly academic works, I was mildly surprised to see my name turn up with a few results. I was cited in Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash, by Brian Tokar, and Writing for Real: A Handbook for Writers in Community Service , by Carolyn Ross, Joseph M. Williams, and Ardel Thomas. I'd forgotten that I was also thanked in Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society, by my friend Randy Schutt.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Google Me, the movie
Jim Killeen Googled his name and found there were Jim Killeens all around the world. So he traveled to meet some of them and made a documentary.



Grabb.it
A group music blog anyone can contribute to.
grabb.it

I want to see that!
Every Monday, Ben and Katie review all the new movies. Even if they haven't seen them yet.
iwtst.com

1,000 True Fans
Ever heard the term "the long tail" and wondered what the hell they were talking about? Here's an article that posits that a person (an artist, a musician or even a blogger, for example) can make a living if they can reach a point where they have 1,000 true fans.
www.kk.org/thetechnium/

Best first dance
Ha ha ha ha ha! Awesome.
www.collegehumor.com/video:1791274

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

How to merge Blogger accounts

I actually have six Blogger blogs, and until today they were spread across two separate Blogger accounts. But I finally tracked down a way to merge accounts. Well, actually it's not merging, it's transferring permissions from one to another, but it accomplishes the same thing.

Until a few months ago this was not possible, according to this helpful post on the Google Groups site. Read post #4 by dancingbrook for the method. It worked like a charm for me, and I was able to move three blogs from one account over, merging them with my primary blogs on my main account.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blogger video upload test

Blogger's added the ability to upload videos. I'm just testing to see how it works, and where the video file lives if you're hosting on your own domain, like me.

video

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Number one on a Google search

A couple years ago I was considering whether to rename this blog. I'm still considering it, but how do you give up being number 7 on a Google search for "splain"?

For "espouse" I've dropped from 4 to number 16, but I guess that ain't half bad. I guess. If you're looking for an espouser.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other ranters and whiners out there on the Internet (you've heard of LiveJournal, right), so searching for "rant" or "whine" doesn't include me even within the first few pages of results. Meh, with that kind of competition, why bother.

Of course, when you search for "rant whine" I'm number one, and you can't beat that.

So...yeah. That's marketable, right?

My dear reader, I'd be eager to see how many of you even realized this blog had a name. If you already knew it, did you remember what the name was when you started reading this? Leave a comment and let me know. And if you want to suggest a better name, let's hear it.

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