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The Longest Now

SOPA – PIPA math: 61% >> 28%
Thursday January 19th 2012, 10:41 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,metrics,wikipedia

Three cheers for participatory democracy! The percentage of stated opposition to SOPA and PIPA in Congress changed dramatically over the past two days, from 28% to 61%. [If you count people who are “leaning No”, by ProPublica’s estimate, this goes up to 69%.]

How many politicians announced they would be co-sponsoring or otherwise outright supporting SOPA/PIPA on Wednesday? By our count: Zero.

Update: Harry Reid releases Dems in the Senate to vote against PIPA if their conscience demands. And Chris Dodd, former Senator and current MPAA Chairman, just called for a summit between Internet and traditional ‘content’ companies, convened by the White House, to reach a compromise. (He hasn’t yet realized that major content companies today are Internet companies.)

We are experiencing the growth of social unity and a certain moral sense across the Web, among people who have found something wonderful, worth defending with all their heart. This is a small piece; it is thrilling to be part of it. I hope you feel it too.

Dylan M v. Google : what to do when you are erased online
Monday July 25th 2011, 11:43 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,fly-by-wire,metrics,popular demand

Dylan M. (@thomasmonopoly) is a real person from New York.  He writes a bit of music, has a personal website, and generally uses a lot of Google services.  Whoops —  or at least he did, until he was G!unpersoned last week.


A week ago, Dylan had an active Google Profile,  a Gmail account, and his website was set up through Google Sites. Then, for an unspecified Terms of Service violation, all of these were suspended or deleted.  Google reps did not specify which, nor did they explain the TOS violation to him.

Here is his initial raging post to a community help forum on Jul 16; a followup the next day.  Customer service, such as it is, has not been kind.  Here are two examples of a “deserved what you got” mentality.  (If you’re a true customer-focused org, noon ever deserves a bad experience!)  On the other hand, here is a lovely note from Google social czar Vic Gundotra, just the sort of thing everyone wants to hear: “You bet on Google.  We owe you better.  I’m investigating.”  (update: DM reports getting a call from VG on July 25, with more info to come)

Naturally, Dylan wanted to know why he was banned.  (Even more naturally, he wanted a copy of his email and addressbook, and some minimal duration of email forwarding.)


What’s happening here

Since the US Post Office has given up on providing digital mail and addresses for people, we have all lost most of the civil rights that used to apply to our mailing address — the right to maintain an address over time, the right to a system of mail delivery that could not be spied on by other citizens…


Google to cancel its translate API, citing ‘extensive abuse’
Saturday May 28th 2011, 10:19 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Not so popular,null,wikipedia

Google’s APIs Product Manager Adam Feldman announced on Thursday they will cancel the Google translate API by December, without replacing it, and that all use of it will be throttled until then.  Any reusers or libraries relying on the translate API to programmatically provide a better multilingual experience will have to switch over to another translation service.  (Some simple services will still be available to users, such as, but APIs will not be available to developers of other sites, libraries, or services.)

Update: As of June 3, Google says that in response to the outcry, they plan to make a paid version of the translate API available. No details yet on what that will look like.

Ouch.  This is a sudden shift, both from their strong earlier support for this API (I was personally encouraged to use it for applications by colleagues at Google), and from their standing policy of supporting deprecated services for up to 3 years.   What could have spooked them?  Why the rush? As of today, the Translate API page reads:

The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

Most disappointing to me is the way this announcement was released: buried in a blog post full of minor “Spring Cleaning” updates to a dozen other APIs.  Most of the other deprecated APIs were replaced by reasonable equivalents or alternatives, and were being maintained indefinitely with limits on the rate of requests per user.  None of them is being cancelled within six months, and none of them are half as widely used!

I hope that this obfuscation was an unintentional oversight.  There have been 170 irate replies to that post so far, almost all about the Translate API cancellation.  But it has been three days already without any significant update from Feldman or any mention of the change on the Google Translate blog.  Google’s response to a ZDNet inquiry was that they have no further information to provide on why they made this decision.


Google Earthiness
Tuesday August 24th 2010, 6:48 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,international

I sometimes wonder whether Keyhole has been able to fulfill their dreams from years past when they were just starting up.  Cetainly they have accomplished amazing things.

Here’s an interesting slideshow of places found through Google Earth.  But where is the annotatable version — the wikimapia mod for Google Earth?   Why are these links to the screenshots of random people, rather than deeplinks into the images themselves?

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Google’s 130M tomes (metadata only)
Thursday August 05th 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: international,metrics,wikipedia

While sometimes confusing “books whose metadata has been scanned by Google” with “books that exist in the world”, a recent post on the G-blog about the size of the Google Books repository is delightful in its details.  Thanks to Leonid Taycher for condensing that into a bit of light reading.

Sadly, no estimates are given on the long-tail number of works that are nowhere close to having their metadata scavenged; or the number of works in the world that have never been moved into a formal archive; or the average number of tomes per conceptual work.  So it’s hard to gauge from this list anything like ‘what % of scanned books are available in freely licensed digital form online’.

But at least the Internet Archive collection is within two orders of magnitude. Now if only finished Wikibooks would make it into that collection…  In related news, there are new docs posted for Open Library developers who want to dig into their archives.  Congrats to Raj and team for the update.

Thanks to Lars for the central correction.

Censorship wars in China
Wednesday January 13th 2010, 4:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Google uncensors itself in China, and is playing hardball, prepared to be blocked there. This is officially a reaction to the latest revelation of snooping by highly-trained Chinese crackers.

What will other companies do or think?  Facebook for instance is officially pro-openness, and don’t feel they store much private data.   Nevertheless, they may start caring about the same issues of data security once they expand more into stricter regimes and users of their services start to disappear.

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