Thinking Carefully” About Online Reputation

The after­noon por­tion of today’s Law Camp ses­sion was mostly admin­is­tra­tive.  We heard from sev­eral deans and stu­dent leaders about var­ious dif­ferent aspects of aca­d­emic and social life at law school.  The last speaker this after­noon was the dean of career ser­vices.

The dean went over a few impor­tant dates, and then offered us a piece of advice.  I para­phrase:

The single most useful and impor­tant thing that you can do in these first sev­eral weeks is to inves­ti­gate and think care­fully about the images and infor­ma­tion about you that exist on the Internet.

He went on to pro­pose two hypo­thet­i­cals, in both of which we should assume the role of a hiring partner at a national law firm.

  1. You gain access to a promising candidate’s Face­book pro­file, and find a pic­ture of the can­di­date sit­ting on the beach in her swim­suit with two of her friends, raising beer cans in a toast.  Do you dis­qualify the can­di­date based on this image?
  2. In researching a dif­ferent but also promising can­di­date online, you come across a col­lege news­paper article com­plete with photo that says, refer­ring to that can­di­date: “SGA Sec­re­tary Con­victed of Stealing School Sup­plies.”  Turns out, it was the April Fool’s edi­tion of the news­paper, but it is not clearly marked on the article and not apparent from the writing style.  Do you dis­qualify the can­di­date based on this dis­covery?

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Antiauthority disputation? Yes please.

David Brooks weighed in last week on the books versus Internet debate.  Though I had no doubt that he would side with the print camp, I was sur­prised by the route he took.

He begins by citing one study showing that kids who took books home over the summer did better than those who didn’t, and another demon­strating that broad­band pen­e­tra­tion seems to cor­re­late with decreased math and reading scores among North Carolina’s 8th graders.  Fair enough.

But then he takes an odd turn, citing an unnamed philanthropist’s obser­va­tion that kids most ben­efit from the iden­tity that books provide them as “readers.”  This iden­tity places them at the bottom of a great hier­archy of knowl­edge, a sub­servience to which Brooks cel­e­brates as the only path to “serious learning.”  The Internet, on the other hand, encour­ages ram­pant and egal­i­tarian “anti­au­thority dis­pu­ta­tion” (you can just hear the sneering).  It seems that Brooks thinks stu­dents should only par­tic­i­pate in intel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tion when they’ve earned the right.  I dis­agree.

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Why URL Shorteners Suck

DeWitt Clinton (a fellow Googler) wrote up an excel­lent analysis of URL short­eners on Buzz.  In short, they suck for users, they suck for pub­lishers, and they suck for the web.  My recent Tropophilia post on links got me thinking on this sub­ject a little, and I was thinking about posting some­thing, but nothing I write would approach DeWitt’s level of exper­tise and insight.  A highly rec­om­mended read.  (Note: Taylor wrote about URL short­eners briefly here).

Side note:  Although I find DeWitt’s post a little long for Buzz, it does show off some of the service’s rich editing capa­bil­i­ties.  Scoble and Cutts have been talking recently about how nicely Buzz fills the niche between microblog­ging and reg­ular blog­ging (what is that, pseudoblog­ging I guess?).  I agree, and I have come to see Buzz more like a social ver­sion of Tumblr than I do a new Twitter or a Blogger.  Hoping more of my friends will jump back on the Buzz train in the future to check it out.

Testing Blackbird Pie

Twitter just released Black­bird Pie, an (oddly named) tool that makes it easy to gen­erate embed­d­able tweets.  Testing here:

Josh Ritter’s new album (http://​bit​.ly/​9​u​z​diz) ain’t bad, but to me His­tor­ical Con­quests (http://​bit​.ly/​b​9​D​jA9) blows it away.less than a minute ago via Echofon

Hm, good start, but needs improve­ment. I like that it car­ries over my pro­file back­ground. The code itself is ridicu­lously long, though, and because it’s HTML-based it picks up all of my blog’s CSS for­mat­ting (thus the weird yellow high­lighting). I guess I could dive into my stylesheet and try to figure out what’s going on, but that’s a hurdle I’m just not willing to jump over. I’d prefer a sim­pler (Flash?) imple­men­ta­tion. I also think the layout could be econ­o­mized even more to save space. I’d much prefer the sleeker imple­men­ta­tion shown here.

Why I’m interested in copyright law

© Geek and Poke /​ cc-by-nd

I think some friends and family wonder why I am so enthralled by copy­right law.  Others may also wonder how it applies to my wider interest in tech­nology law.  For some time, I wasn’t quite sure myself.  Indeed, over the past few years I’ve some­times found myself dis­cour­aged by the seem­ingly wonky nature of the sub­ject.  Looking back, for example, at my grandfather’s legal career in civil rights, I won­dered if I was being too selfish with my inter­ests.

I’ve recently come to under­stand that this isn’t the case, that copy­right law (and its reform) is an impor­tant matter for the Amer­ican public to under­stand and dis­cuss.  Why?  Because copy­right presents a fun­da­mental con­flict between cap­i­talism (or, profit) and freedom of speech, with nothing less than the fate of our cre­ative cul­ture at stake.  The way we go about resolving this con­flict says much about America as a lib­eral democ­racy and cul­tural leader in the world.  And right now, we’re not doing so hot.

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