The scene: a demonstration in the mid-70s of an early multitasking OS at Xerox PARC:

To illustrate the flexibility of the system, the Xerox presenter clicked from a window in which he had been composing software code to another window that displayed a newly arrived e-mail message. He quickly read and replied to the message, then hopped back to the programming window and continued coding. Some in the audience applauded the new system. They saw that it would enable people to use their computers much more efficiently. Others recoiled from it. “Why in the world would you want to be interrupted — and distracted — by e-mail while programming?” one of the attending scientists angrily demanded.

— Excerpted from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. Highly recommended.

You Will Believe a Man Can be a Dying AT-AT

It’s probably too late to get tickets, but if there are any to be had, I highly recommend One-Man Star Wars at the SJ Rep. Playing this weekend only.

Of course, this requires heading down to the land of SJSU students with extremely poor taste in clothing. Downtown San Jose. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious.

Posted in SF

It’s Not Pharmacy Spam, It’s My *Art*, Damnit

When their comments are deleted, trolls typically complain about “censorship.” But an enterprising troll on Making Light, after having a previous comment disemvoweled, had the following interesting new angle. (Note that his post complaining about disemvoweling was also disemvoweled, but I have re-emvoweled this excerpt as best I could. Just one of the many services we provide.)

If [a] past comment here still keep the copyright [i]n [i]t (according to several experts, including [E]FF) is censoring it by removing vowels and turning it into gibberish is not only rude, it’s downright illegal.

Interestingly, the troll included the EFF as one of the “several experts” on copyright law who agreed with him. That made me curious — what does the EFF actually say about disemvoweling?

I’m upset that a moderator disemvowelled my comments. Is that illegal?

No. While we are aware of no court cases regarding disemvowelling, removing the vowels from a post is a form of criticism and commentary on that post. Even if it not explicitly permitted by the blog’s terms of use or an acceptable use policy, a court would likely consider the edit to be a fair use of your comment.

Well, what does the EFF know anyway? Buncha hippies. Hippies who are also lawyers. Hippies who are also lawyers based in San Francisco. Really, does it get any worse than that?

Quite frankly, I think that the safest legal interpretation is that once a troll or spammer deposits their droppings on your forum or blog, it becomes Sacred Text, protected by the full force of US Copyright law, WIPO, and most likely God Herself. Personally, I just hope I’m covered by fair use for daring to excerpt the troll’s comment. And for that matter, for excerpting the EFF. Although I’m somewhat less afraid of the EFF, ’cause you know, hippies — pfft.