Posts from May 5, 2005

Pick your headline: Google steals content… Google declares war on publishers… Google violates copyright…. Google is evil…. None of the above… All of the above….

Pick your headline: Google steals content… Google declares war on publishers… Google violates copyright…. Google is evil…. None of the above… All of the above….

: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Google is repeating one of the great sins of AOL, promising to “accelerate” the web by caching — that is, copying and storing — web pages to serve to you.

It’s one matter when the search engine caches a page you can’t get anymore; that’s a copyright violation but an all-in-all benign one in the sense that it’s only giving you content you could not otherwise see (no different from, say, the web archive).

But it’s quite another matter for Google to get in the way of serving current content. This means that the page is served from Google rather than from a publisher’s server, which means that the publisher cannot count the traffic and serve targeted and dynamic advertising.

It also means that Google is copying content on its servers and serving it from there and thus is violating copyright.

And it means that Google is in a position to snoop on data on consumers’ usage of sites that Google does not own: That is, Google will know what the consumers on my site are doing better than I will for these “accelerated” pages.

I’m also reading that Google shortstops cookies, which affects not only publishers but also users. Cory Doctorow points out: “…but of course you’re not anonymous to Google, which knows about your search history (if you’ve got cookies on), your email address (if you register for Groups, etc), your friends (if you use Orkut), your email (if you use gmail), and even has your credit card (if you use AdWords or Answers).”

And all this is done in the name of accelerating the web in an era when most of us have broadband and it doesn’t need much acceleration.

Again, if I’m getting that wrong, please tell me. But I’ll just bet we’ll see publishers telling their lawyers go to fetch.

Here’s PaidContent’s writeup; here’s Steve Yelvington’s writeup; here’s John Battelle’s.

Search Engine Journal reports that the accelerator is screwing up, serving the wrong pages to the wrong people and even signing people into forums under the wrong names.

Fantomas gives instructions on how to block the Google accelerator.

: See earlier cautionary notes on Google here and here.

Bottom line: I see no reason why I should be expected to trust these guys anymore.

Crystal ball

Crystal ball

: Alex Beam, who sometimes chooses not to get the future, tries to write a cute column about the future, when Nick Denton buys The New York Times. Tries way, way too hard. Too cute by half. And essentially wrong-headed, arguing that only in newspapers are serious issues like Social Security discussed — when, in fact, if you look up Social Security online you’ll find, often, more discussion and better depth.



: I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why the Guardian imported Kos to blog the British election — and write lines like this: “Exit polls numbers have dominated the coverage of the election up until now, and it’s no wonder. It satiates our desire to get some metric of progress, and it helps fill the dead airtime between the polls closing and actual results.” [let’s all use “satiate” in a sentence] — when there are plenty of great Brit bloggers. No offense to Kos, but I’d rather hear another British voice.

Jumping the shark for Jesus, continued

Jumping the shark for Jesus, continued

: George Will has a good start to a column today about George Bush apparently trying to pull back from the follies of the religious fringe. But Will doesn’t pull back quite far enough, in my view, for he contrasts only the religious fringe with the godless and leaves out the vast religious majority inbetween.

The state of America’s political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week’s prime-time news conference, he said: “If you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.”

So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans. And almost 30 million living Americans welcomed that presidential benediction.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Americans who answer “none” when asked to identify their religion numbered 29.4 million in 2001, more than double the 14.3 million in 1990. If unbelievers had their own state — the state of None — its population would be more than twice that of New England’s six states, and None would be the nation’s second-largest state:

California, 34.5 million.

None, 29.4 million.

Texas, 21.3 million.

The president, whose political instincts, at least, are no longer so misunderestimated by his despisers, may have hoped his remarks about unbelievers would undo some of the damage done by the Terri Schiavo case. During that Florida controversy, he made a late-night flight from his Texas ranch to Washington to dramatize his signing of imprudent legislation that his party was primarily responsible for passing. He and his party seemed to have subcontracted governance to certain especially fervid religious supporters.

He then goes on to praise Pat Robertson — “who is fervid but also shrewd” — for tolerating the idea of a Guiliani run for President and says: “Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak.”

As if Robertson is a model. He neglects to mention Robertson’s other recent media appearance contending that loose judges are the most serious threat to America in 400 years of history — more serious than the Nazis and slavery and explicitly more serious than al Qaeda. A fine model of political reasonableness.

Will then goes on to argue that the religious right should stop trying to play victim and he uses Passion of the Christ and best-selling religious books and more as his evidence. “But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.” I agree with that.

But I have a problem with making Robertson, Passion, and the Left Behind books the milestones of religion in America. Will puts people in that camp or in the unbelieving camp. But there is a vast religious middle that would not qualify as religious by the definition of some, that may not be the most loyal churchgoers or churchgoers at all, that may hold opinions that are antithetical to the beliefs of this group… but they are religious Americans nonetheless. I am in that middle, that mainstream. But that’s the subject of another post another day.

: At the same time, in The Times, David Brooks writes about religion and Abraham Lincoln:

On Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln gathered his cabinet to tell them he was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He said he had made a solemn vow to the Almighty that if God gave him victory at Antietam, Lincoln would issue the decree.

Lincoln’s colleagues were stunned. They were not used to his basing policy on promises made to the Lord. They asked him to repeat what he’d just said. Lincoln conceded that “this might seem strange,” but “God had decided the question in favor of the slaves.”

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that faith should be kept out of politics.

Well, I’d be stunned, too. So what if the battle had gone the other way: Would Lincoln have left the slaves imprisoned? Does this mean he believes that God joins in a battle? Yes, stunning. I don’t think that’s a mark of sane religion in government any more than Pat Robertson is.

Deciding that slavery is wrong and must be stopped should not require a signal from God; it should be evident from studying God’s word and from examining one’s own conscience. Brooks would call that relativism — “the bland relativism of the militant secularists.” But that is not relativism. That is morality. That is what religion is about.

But Brooks would call me a “militant secularist.” I think those are fighting words.

Nannyism gone wild

Nannyism gone wild

: Jay Allen sends news that a middle-school marching band in Benton Harbor, Michigan, was forbidden from playing Louie Louie — the instrumental version — because one lone whining parent thinks it’s obscene. There was, by the way, an FBI investigation into the song years ago that concluded it is not obscene and, in any case, the lyrics can’t be understood. The Smoking Gun has pages from the file and the real lyrics.