Mashing It up in Philly (NEWUG WebCT Regional Conf)

Yesterday, I attended the NEWUG WebCT Regional Conference at Drexel University. I was part of a presentation about a study that we did here at NJIT on student satisfaction with distance learning (online learning, eLearning, call it what you will). But, the presentation that I most enjoyed was by Chris Shamburg from NJCU.

In the jargon of Web 2.0, Chris did a mashup on epistemology, learning to be a discriminating user of web information (How credible are things like Wikipedia, blogs etc.?), and using RSS feed aggregators to pull all this information into one place where you might be able to actually digest it. It was the only really participatory session I attended, and it included some good low-tech audience-baiting techniques (like handing out scenarios on file cards to everyone - sometimes I really miss 3X5 cards...).

It got people thinking - and arguing - and that's good. Most people in higher ed are so far behind their students in the use of technology. I don't really expect our faculty to all open MySpace accounts, start podcasting etc. What I would like to see is more of our faculty becoming aware of what is out there and at least suggesting/encouraging/allowing their students to use the new technologies.

There was a lot of discussion in Chris' session on whether or not we should be allowing/encouraging students to use sources like Wikipedia. Though we certainly did not have a consensus on that, what was clear from our discussion is that we need to be talking with students about issues like this.


So, you think Facebook is just a waste?

You think social media is just another Net fad not worth considering?

BusinessWeek reports that Facebook, which launched just two years ago by a group of sophomores at Harvard University led by Mark Zuckerberg, is the seventh-most heavily trafficked site on the Internet. How does 5.5 billion page views (2/06) sound? It beat out,, and Disney.

They have already passed on an offer of $750-million from an unnamed bidder. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation bought the other current hot site, MySpace, in November 2005 for $580-million. The Facebook team thinks the $1-2 billion range sounds right.

Thinking MySpace is old news? MySpace had 37.3 million unique visitors during the month of February and 23.5 billion page views, making it the second-most trafficked site after Yahoo. That means it beat out giants like MSN and Google.

DMCA The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: More Strangeness

DMCA cases sometimes test the limits of the 1998 copyright law which Congress passed in the hope of limiting Internet piracy. It has been used by copyright holders to pursue people who distribute computer programs that unlock copyrighted content such as DVDs or encrypted e-books.

Confidentiality of security techniques is a big item for copyright holders, and on the other side free-speech advocates say restrictions on academic discussions of encryption violate the First Amendment.

Adobe Systems persuaded the Justice Department to prosecute Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian programmer who allegedly violated the DMCA by writing an e-book unscrambler. Charges against Sklyarov were eventually dropped in exchange for his testimony in his company's trial.

The DMCA was used to stop 2600 magazine (a hacker publication) and have them delete a DVD-descrambling utility from its website.

Apple Computer invoked the DMCA to prevent its customers from burning DVDs on external drives. Oddly enough, the action was against an Apple DEALER who offered a patch to Apple's iDVD burning software. In unmodified form, iDVD does not permit writing to external drives manufactured by third parties.

Copyright law for printer toner cartridges?

In one of my favorite out-there uses of the DMCA, Lexmark filed a suit against Static Control Components in an effort to stop the toner cartridge remanufacturing industry. Lexmark is the No. 2 printer maker in the United States, behind Hewlett-Packard, and manufactures printers under the Dell Computer brand. Lexmark claims that Static Control violated the DMCA by selling its Smartek chips to companies that refill toner cartridges and undercut Lexmark's prices. Under section 1201 of the DMCA, it is generally unlawful to circumvent technology that restricts access to a copyrighted work.

In a complaint filed in December 2002, the company claims the Smartek chip mimics the authentication sequence used by Lexmark chips and unlawfully tricks the printer into accepting an aftermarket cartridge. That "circumvents the technological measure that controls access to the Toner Loading Program and the Printer Engine Program," the complaint says. In 2004 (the court plods on), a federal court ruled that SCC can continue selling their chip.

Stop using that video iPod for video!

Apple's first video iPod (using iTunes software) didn't allow you to transfer a legally purchased DVD to the iPod. Why? Blame Congress. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. makes it a federal offense to sell or distribute software that can rip DVDs, so Apple is guilty if iTunes transferred DVDs to an iPod as easily as it can music from a CD.
The newest video iPod changes this and could start some discussion on DMCA again.
"Our best hope for getting amendments to the DMCA is for more regular consumers to feel the pinch of the DMCA," says Fred von Lohmann, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Stop that researcher #1

Hewlwtt-Packard (HP) threatened to sue a team of researchers who publicized a vulnerability in the company's Tru64 Unix operating system. They warned SnoSoft, a loosely organized research collective, that its members "could be fined up to $500,000 and imprisoned for up to five years" for its role in publishing information on a bug that lets an intruder take over a Tru64 Unix system. This seems to be the first time the DMCA has been invoked to stifle research related to computer security.

Stop the researcher #2

The case had an abrupt reversal, but SunnComm Technologies was set to sue a Princeton University graduate student who published a paper that describes how to bypass CD copy-protection technology simply by pressing the Shift key. SunnComm had gone after Princeton doctoral student John "Alex" Halderman just a day before, claiming that his academic paper was "at best, duplicitous and, at worst, a felony." The company had pledged to file a civil suit against Halderman under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and lobby federal prosecutors to indict him on criminal charges.

SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs acknowledged his threat to file a lawsuit was a mistake. "I felt the researcher has an agenda, which he does," he said. "But that's not relevant, and I learned that...The long-term nature of the lawsuit and the emotional result of the lawsuit would obscure the issue, and it would develop a life of its own."

Stop the researcher #3

A music industry group tried to block publication of research that describes anti-piracy technology known as watermarking, saying a report stemming from an industry-backed hacking challenge violates digital copyright law. The researchers led by Princeton University Professor Edward Felten cracked the code to four watermark schemes being considered as a secure digital music standard. Then attorneys for the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) (a music industry-sponsored group formed to protect digital songs from piracy) contacted the team hoping to stop it from publishing the research. "Your contemplated disclosure appears to be motivated by a desire to engage in scientific research that will ensure that SDMI does not deploy a flawed system," their letter said. "Unfortunately, the disclosure that you are contemplating could result in significantly broader consequences and could directly lead to the illegal distribution of copyrighted material."

Do You iPod Your Podcasts?

So, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared "podcasting" the "Word of the Year" for 2005. Their definition is "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player."

You subscribe to podcasts and they are automatically "pushed" to you on a regular schedule like a magazine subscription. (Why RSS - "Really Simple Syndication" which allows you to subscribe to podcasts, blogs etc. didn't take off in 2001 when it appeared, I can't explain.)

"According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Bridge Data, the relevance of portability to podcast usage has been vastly overstated. In fact, more 80% of podcast downloads never make it to a portable player or another device - they are consumed on the PC (or, worse, never listened or deleted)."

So where are your podcasts?

I download podcasts (audio & video) every day. I open iTunes and it just happens. I have subscriptions to 24 shows right now, so someone is bound to have something new available that day.

I load most audio ones to my little Apple iPod Shuffle, listen to them that day, and then wipe them clean & replace them next time. My Shuffle isn't a video iPod, so the video ones stay on the computer where I watch them (actually, sometimes the video ones play underneath my top active window, so I treat them as audio only). Many video podcasts work fine as audio-only and unfortunately my iPod can't handle a video file in any way, so I can't move them to the Shuffle to even listen to them.

One of my favorite podcasts is This Week in Technology (TWiT) which is sometimes available as video (AKA vodcast, which I think sounds stupid). I don't think it needs the video. It works fine as radio. Yeah, it was nice to see what the regulars on the show look like - once. They broadcast A Prairie Home Companion on TV a few times and I thought it almost ruined the show for me.

We are experimenting with podcasts at NJIT (AKA coursecasting) and will be curious to find out how many students are downloading them and whre they are using them.

Personal Video Online: YouTube and Beyond

First, some new news bits...

6/29/06 - NBC signed a deal to become the first major network to partner with YouTube. The agreement calls for NBC to create an "NBC Channel" on YouTube to promote shows including "Saturday Night Live," "The Office," and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Back in December 2005, the companies clashed because of a popular "SNL" spoof rap, "Lazy Sunday," that was posted to YouTube in violation of NBC's copyright.

3/22/06 - Following the Hollywood adage that there is "no bad advertising", the video website gained a huge following through some "bad" press. YouTube is a user-submitted video hosting site. Users upload their short videos (under 10 minutes) for the world to see. The site hosts them as Flash files - viewable, not downloadable. But they also upload professional commercial/copyrighted video.

Saturday Night Live featured a self-censored & simultaneously Natalie Portman rapping video that has had way too many plays and a music video that parodied "The Chronic(les) of Narnia" which ended up on the Net through illegal uploads. YouTube had its traffic shoot up from the videos (5 million streams over 45 days for one dubbed "Lazy Sunday"). And the NBC demands sent even more to view it. No such thing as bad advertising.

It took 2 months for NBC's legal department to contact viral video sites like YouTube about "Lazy Sunday" when it appeared last December during the month of YouTube's official version 1.0 launch. They demanded the clip and hundreds of others be removed. (This all by invoking the DMCA - more on that in a future entry). Of course, by then NBC had already posted it on their own site (You can watch "Lazy Sunday" on the NBC site for free, or download at Apple's iTunes for $1.99 (huh? why would anyone do that?) along with other NBC shows and clips).

Even though NBC and others have made more of their product available on new platforms, it's just not fast enough for the NetGen. Clips appear within the hour after broadcast. So, when YouTube users uploaded the Natalie Portman rap clip this month, NBC sent another removal demand.

What really scares these networks is that this generation is not watching television. Well, not television like was watched in the 50s-80s. They watch online. They watch clips. They pass them around. And now they post them and send the link.

Internet television is hot. YouTube is not the only site - is also popular (and was quicker with a business plan to make deals with producers to sell video, like CBS old & new) and there's also How about Charlie Rose for 99 cents or classic Twilight Zone episodes for $1.99?

But then YouTube has the spoof "Brokeback to the Future," where Back to the Future clips are edited/mashed in such a way to suggest a forbidden romance between Doc and Marty McFly.

Someone uploaded part of a video used to train flight attendants on YouTube and Google Video in February and American Airlines subpoenaed those companies on Feb. 21 under DMCA since the video. "Flight Attendant, Upside Down," is under copyright.

Another popular YouTube link is a Rice Krispies advertisement from 1964 featuring a jingle written and performed by the Rolling Stones. In 1964, the band asked not to be identified as being involved when the ad was aired.

I do enjoy the Comedy Central Daily Show clips - like this bit on Social Networking and MySpace.- and since I have their RSS for the videos in my Bloglines list, I get a summary each day of what they have posted and can decide if I want to click any of them.

The first “official” YouTube film trailer was for Scary Movie 4. In 3 days it had half a million views, with 2300 people rating it at 4 ½ stars, and 800 comments. Go ahead - buy some viral video for your product. And remember who the demographic audience is for that film...

Unfortunately there's also pornographic, inappropriate material, and just plain junk uploaded too.

"There's a lot of experimenting and showing off going on," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "Eventually the better stuff will survive, and people doing it for a thrill will fade away."

I hope so, but I'm not so sure.

YouTube has instituted "fingerprinting" to try to identify video that was already removed from being re-uploaded.

Nearly half of all Internet users (about 34 million homes) have watched video streamed online [Forrester Research] That includes movie trailers, music videos the latest episodes of shows and homemade video.

This online video raveup is also encouraging young filmmakers who can get thousands/millions of viewers online. You might get numbers that could compete with some broadcast and cable shows.

They are using video cams, cell phones, digital cameras, animation software, simple editors and now they have the important last leg - DISTRIBUTION.

Not so different from blogs that created amateur journalists or podcasts for "radio" shows.

"We're starting to see that anyone with an Internet connection, a digital camera and computer can become a star overnight," says Steve Chen, the 27-year-old co-founder of YouTube.

A Michigan 21 year old, David Lehre, produced "MySpace: The Movie," a satire on that popular online site. Someone (not him initially) put it on YouTube and it quickly became a hit. I'm hearing that MTV and Hollywood has contacted him to do some work.

Some are not as original. Video "mashups," (splicing and blend film and TV clips). are popular, both as spoofs and as music videos.

There are sites where you can make some money by submitting video like, which targets 18-35-year-old males and buys the rights to clips.

And online video is hardly new. Didn't you watch that kid with the light saber pretending to be in Star Wars, or those JibJab animated parodies in 2004 of John Kerry and George W. Bush?


YouTube: from zero to nine million plus viewers a month [Nielsen NetRatings]

25% of YouTube's hits are generated by MySpace [Hitwise]

By 2007, people are expected to watch 29 billion streams of video, up from 18 billion in 2005 [AccuStream iMedia Research]


  • CBS and Yahoo are airing college basketball games online during March Madness. NBC
  • MTV is teaming up with YouTube to promote one of its television shows, one of many more potential deals.
  • Tagworld, has music videos by the Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent and the Killers in a partnership with Universal Music Group.
  • - "Media for the masses" is doing a one-hour pilot on USA Network.
  • ABC is planning to experiment with streaming primetime television shows soon.

Producers eventually accepted that viewers were using VCRs to timeshift their viewing. Online video is a further extension. And it may bring new viewers to shows, or bring lost viewers back.