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.
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.
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.
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.
Apparently, a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price hit the stores today. It would be a massive lie for me to say that, at some primal level, I don’t want one. But I’ve danced this dance before. Three years ago (has it really only been three years?), I swore that I didn’t want or need an iPhone. I had a perfectly good clamshell phone, and I was fine not having the web or my email in my pocket.