Linkdump for April 19th through April 26th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between April 19th and April 26th.

Sometime between April 19th and April 26th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • I had a dream about a Star Trek series with a ferengi captain…: …and he was super endearing but it was like…the worst ship in the fleet and it was full of the misfits of starfleet But I loved this captain I loved him who is he // It’s Nog.
  • What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech: 'Free speech' as the ability to say anything you want vs. 'free speech' as the ability for all to participate equally in public discourse. (Summary via @leftoblique on Twitter)
  • NorWesCon: Norwescon's page on Fancyclopedia 3. We are the third entry (without camel case).
  • Fancyclopedia 3: Fancyclopedia 3 is a collective enterprise of all of fandom. Based on the previous works by Jack Speer (Fancyclopedia 1), Dick Eney (Fancyclopedia 2), and Rich Brown, it is written by fans who want to contribute.
  • 5 Things That Don’t Seem Like Mansplaining But Are, Because Playing Devil’s Advocate Doesn’t Enlighten Anyone: By now, you may have heard the term mansplaining — explaining things as a man to a woman with the incorrect assumption that she doesn't understand — and heard of it in its most common forms. But some things that don't seem like mansplaining, but are, may have escaped your attention. Mansplaining, after all, is part of a set of cultural assumptions that place men's opinions above women's, and these assumptions are everywhere.

…but there your rights stop.

…no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended.

I’m no big fan of Philip Pullman — not that I go so far as to actively dislike him for any reason, I just didn’t think the His Dark Materials trilogy was really all that good — but this quote, in response to someone asking whether his latest book was “offensive,” is a thing of beauty:

It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That’s all I have to say on that subject.

(via Boing Boing)

Next Month: YES on R-71, NO on I-1033

That’s it, then. Slightly less than a month. Two important measures, both of which could use more support. Yes on R-71. No on I-1033. Don’t forget to vote.

There’s a local election coming up in just under a month, and much like any non-presidential election, turnout is expected to be sadly low. I persist in hoping that anyone reading this will take the time to vote — it’s especially easy around here, now that King County has gone to an all-mail balloting system. Just fill out the ballot, drop it in the mail or one of the many free ballot dropboxes, and you’re done. Quick and simple. So do it. There’s no good excuse not to.

There are two measures on the ballot this time around that deserve particular attention: R-71 and I-1033.


Approve Referendum 71Vote YES on R-71. Washington voters already approved a domestic partnership law, and R-71 (put on the ballot by people opposed to the domestic partnership law who hope to overturn it) is asking whether we should uphold that legislation. Simple answer: yes.

There are more than 12,000 people in Washington state registered in domestic partnerships. Gay and lesbian families need domestic partnership laws to provide essential protections for their families. Families with children need the protections provided by domestic partnership laws, especially when a parent dies. Seniors need the protections provided by domestic partnership laws. For seniors, domestic partnerships mean that their hard-earned social security, military or pension benefits are not put at risk. Police officers and firefighters who risk their lives to protect our communities need domestic partnership laws if they are hurt or killed in the line of duty, so that their families are taken care of by their pension or workers’ compensation. By voting to Approve Referendum 71, you will vote to ensure that all families, in all parts of the state, should be treated fairly, with the same protections and responsibilities, especially in times of crisis.

While there’s a lot of support for approving R-71 among people I know (nearly all of my local Facebook contacts are ‘fans’ of the Approve R-71 Facebook page), a recent poll shows only a slim lead.

Referendum 71, which would uphold the state’s domestic-partnership bill if approved, is leading in the Seattle area but losing in less populous parts of the state, according to a poll conducted by Survey USA. Of the 548 voters surveyed in Washington, 45 percent said they would certainly approve the measure, 42 percent said they would reject it, and 13 percent were undecided.

A lead is good, but it could be a lot better than that. Spread the word.


C8334F30-0974-49C4-8DA2-6860255A54A9.jpgVote NO on I-1033. The latest in Tim Eyman‘s series of proposals, I-1033 carries potentially disastrous repercussions should it pass…and recent polls show that it has a strong possibility of passing.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033, which would lower taxes but ultimately devastate government budgets, would pass if voters had to decide today, the poll also shows. Of likely voters in the general election, 45 percent of respondents would certainly vote yes, 32 percent would vote no, and 22 percent were undecided.

As with most of Eyman’s proposals, they sound good on the surface, but don’t hold up well under close scrutiny — and, unfortunately, most people only bother with the surface. Here’s The Stranger’s look at what I-1033 would mean if it passes:

Tim Eyman’s new initiative, which will be on your ballot in November, seems simple enough. It would essentially limit the amount of money the government can collect from taxpayers based on how much it collected the previous year, adjusted for inflation and population growth. Any surplus the state collects would go toward reducing property taxes. Eyman says Initiative 1033 would stabilize the legislature’s “fiscal roller coaster, overextending themselves in good times—creating unsustainable budgets—which led to slashing during bad times.”

So what could go wrong?

If passed by voters, the measure would lock Washington into its current budget—the worst budget the state has had in decades, owing to the recession—and prevent the budget from expanding when the economy improves. So the state at its leanest—like right now, with a budget requiring the state to lay off roughly 3,000 teachers and cut basic health services for 40,000 people—would become the most robust the state could ever be. In addition, the gap between costs and revenue would steadily grow, because costs for services and shifts in demographics (like more students in schools and old people in nursing homes) outpace inflation and population growth.

Indeed, even the early forecasts of I-1033 show potentially devastating impacts on the state’s budget for education, health care, and vaccines. As a result, class sizes could grow, increasing numbers of poor and elderly people would be kicked off state-funded health programs, and response to natural disasters and disease outbreaks would be minimal because the state couldn’t run surpluses to pay for them.

Sadly, while the Approve R-71 campaign is and has been going strong (in one admittedly somewhat questionable metric, their Facebook page has almost 15,000 ‘fans’), the No on I-1033 campaign has yet to achieve nearly the level of consciousness (their Facebook page is at 2,260 ‘fans’), and without more people realizing just what the consequences of passing I-1033 will be, the slick language of the initiative stands a strong chance of pushing it through, and crippling Washington’s budget for the foreseeable future.


That’s it, then. Slightly less than a month. Two important measures, both of which could use more support. Yes on R-71. No on I-1033. Don’t forget to vote.

Vice Versa

‘Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.’

Here’s [a thing of beauty][1]:

[1]: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976736092 “Gather: The Constitution…or the Bible?”

> On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.
>
> At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: “Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?”
>
> Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
>
> The room erupted into applause.

(via [Pharyngula][2])

[2]: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/03/heres_a_way_to_frame_the_confl.php “Pharyngula: Here’s a way to frame the conflict”

Bloggers’ Rights and Blogophobia

With the news of another weblogger losing his job because of posts on his weblog the issues of what webloggers can and cannot expect to be able to post on their weblogs has started bubbling ’round the blogosphere again. Now there’s a proposed Bloggers’ Bill of Rights — but how useful is it? And which companies should really be singled out?

With the news of another weblogger losing his job because of posts on his weblog — this time [Joe of the Woolamaloo Gazette][1] — the issues of what webloggers can and cannot expect to be able to post on their weblogs has started bubbling ’round the blogosphere again.

[1]: http://www.woolamaloo.org.uk/2005/01/those-who-profess-to-favor-freedom-and.htm “Thursday, January 06, 2005”

This time, [Ellen Simonetti of Queen of Sky][2], who [lost her job as a flight attendant][3] due to pictures she posted on her weblog, has started a project she’s called the [Bloggers’ Bill of Rights][4]. I’ve had a few people e-mail me about this (including Ellen herself), but I’ve been holding off on posting anything about it until I’d had some time to think about it.

[2]: http://queenofsky.journalspace.com/ “Diary of a Flight Attendant”
[3]: http://queenofsky.journalspace.com/?cmd=displaycomments&dcid=487&entryid=487 “Queen of Sky Story Summary”
[4]: http://rights.journalspace.com/ “The Bloggers’ Rights Blog”

# The Bloggers’ Bill of Rights #

The Bill of Rights reads [as follows][5]:

[5]: http://rights.journalspace.com/?cmd=displaycomments&dcid=2&entryid=2 “International Bloggers’ Rights Blog: The Bloggers’ Bill of Rights”

> We, the inhabitants of the Blogosphere, do hereby proclaim that bloggers everywhere are entitled to the following basic rights:
>
> FREEDOM TO BLOG.
>
> FREEDOM FROM PERSECUTION AND RETALIATION BECAUSE OF OUR BLOGS:
>
> 1. If an employer wishes to discipline an employee because of his/her blog, it must first establish clear-cut blogging policies and distribute these to all of its employees.
> 2. Blogging employees shall be given warning before being disciplined because of their blogs.
> 3. NO ONE shall be fired because of his/her blog, unless the employer can prove that the blogger did intentional damage to said employer through the blog.
>
> Blogophobic companies, who violate the Bloggers’ Bill of Rights, will be blacklisted by millions of bloggers the world over.

After running this around in my head for a couple days to be sure of where I stood on this, I’ve got to admit that I may end up taking a rather unpopular stance — but I can’t help but think that while I appreciate the ideals behind this, this particular effort seems rather silly, pointless, and unlikely to be of any real consequence.

First off, there’s the simple fact that this is not a real “Bill of Rights” in any real legal sense (which Ellen has made sure to [call attention to][6]). Well-intentioned as it is, it carries no weight whatsoever beyond that which the participants give it, and as the sole participants are going to be those webloggers who sign on to it, it makes the whole thing pretty one-sided.

[6]: http://queenofsky.journalspace.com/?cmd=displaycomments&dcid=487&entryid=487 “Blogger’s Bill of Rights, Rough Draft (See Edit #3)”

As for the three points of the Bill:

1. > If an employer wishes to discipline an employee because of his/her blog, it must first establish clear-cut blogging policies and distribute these to all of its employees.

While a specific, targeted, “clear-cut blogging policy” sounds good, and there are a few companies [starting to implement such things][7], I ‘m not entirely sure if it’s a necessary thing in most cases, and it seems rather redundant if you’re working under a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

[Terrance has been thinking about this side of it][8] more than I have:

> But what should a corporate policy on blogging look like? That’s something I never quite got back to wrapping my brain around but seeing this list of people who were fired for blogging got me thinking about it again.
>
> For employers, assume that your employees are going to blog, and establish clear guidelines to guide them should they choose to do so. Make the penalties for not abiding by the policy clear, such as under what circumstances an employee will be warned and under what circumstances an employee will be terminated where blogging is concerned. And, of course, one of the best things to do is to set an example by starting a company blog if appropriate.

If you’re publishing something to the ‘net, then you need to think very carefully about the fact that you’re _publishing_ something. The ‘net is a public forum. You’re not talking to one or two friends over a pint in the local bar — you’re putting that information out for [Google][9] and the entire world to see. Even if you generally only have a small handful of friends and family visiting your website, if the site is publicly available, than you have a potential audience larger than any printed newspaper or magazine on the face of the planet, and once a post is made, it makes no difference whether your words were printed with ink on paper or electrons on a screen.

If you’re under an NDA, than it’s blindingly simple: don’t talk about anything covered by the NDA. Period. Hopefully nobody’s foolish enough to question that.

If you’re not under an NDA, it may seem a little hazy, especially without a blogging policy in place. Many people think that attempting to blog anonymously, using pseudonyms for their co-workers or employer will keep them safe. I tend to think that that’s a somewhat naïve belief, something that I’ve talked about in the past (when I chose to start weblogging [under my given name][10], and again when I was [wrapping up my experiences with Microsoft][11]). Really, it’s very simple, and boils down to common sense: if something you write might get you in trouble, assume the worst _before_ you post it for the world to see.

Maybe it seems a little overly paranoid — but while there are times when it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, that’s not a game that I think is very reasonable when it comes to your employment.

2. > Blogging employees shall be given warning before being disciplined because of their blogs.

Oh, how I wish I’d been given a warning and the opportunity to delete my offending post! I don’t have any problem at all with this clause — in fact, I think that in quite a few of the cases where webloggers have been dismissed from their jobs (including mine, Ellen’s, and Joe’s), a warning or even mild disciplinary action on the part of the company would have been _far_ preferable to simply firing the offending employee.

However, that’s a decision that is solely up to the company. We as webloggers can sign all the agreements, petitions, and Bills of Rights that we want, but it’s the employer that makes the final call, not the employee. My one hope is that as more of these cases come to light, more employers will realize that they’ll receive far less bad publicity and word of mouth by requesting that the offending material be deleted and reprimanding the employee, rather than simply cutting all ties as quickly as possible. However, until and unless that happens — and some companies may decide that it’s not worth the risk of keeping the employee around, even with the potential bad press — it’s far better to err on the side of caution (at least if you’d like to continue receiving a steady paycheck).

3. > NO ONE shall be fired because of his/her blog, unless the employer can prove that the blogger did intentional damage to said employer through the blog.

First off, and most importantly, again, this is solely up to the discretion of the employer.

That said, how does one define “intentional damage” — and why “intentional”? What if an employee were to blog about a project of a co-workers that they’d been peripherally involved in, only to find out later that it was a secret project? They weren’t part of the main team and hadn’t signed a specific NDA regarding that project, so any damage that publishing that information may have done to the company wouldn’t have been intentional — but that wouldn’t mean it was any less damaging to the company, or that the employee was any less at fault for having disclosed the information.

What we as employees, customers, and webloggers see as damaging might be (and likely is) far different from what a company would see as damaging, especially if we can be seen in any way as representing the company. Joe Shmoe on the street saying “Product X sucks” is one thing, a programmer on the Product X team saying the same thing in their weblog is very different, _even if the average reader might not know that the weblogger is associated with that project_.

[7]: http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2004/05/02/Policy “Sun Policy on Public Discourse”
[8]: http://www.republicoft.com/index.php/archives/2005/01/09/do-work-blogging-mix/ “Do Work and Blogging Mix?”
[9]: http://www.google.com/ “Google”
[10]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2002/12/own_yourself.html “Own Yourself”
[11]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/fifteen_minutes.html#conclusion” “Conclusion”

In the end, it really boils down to something very simple: it’s the employer that holds the cards. That certainly doesn’t mean that they should be able to get away with doing anything they wish (as has been demonstrated many times over the years through unions, strikes, and so on), but it does mean that the employee needs to take their employer into consideration before publishing work-related subjects to their website.

Lastly, about this “…blacklisted by millions of bloggers the world over” bit. Nothing personal to Ellen or anyone else who’s signed, but so far, there’s all of 44 signatories to this — a far cry from “millions of webloggers.” Plus, even if this did gain traction and there were millions — or even thousands — of participating bloggers…_blacklisted_?

So, anyone who has signed or is about to sign this thing is pledging not to mention or support any of these companies in any way? That’s going to be interesting to see. [Apple][12]’s on that list, so there better not be any Mac users — and if there are, then I hope they’re not planning on covering the [Macworld Expo][13] that starts tomorrow. [Microsoft][14] might be on the list, too. With both Apple and Microsoft on the list, I assume that everyone who’s signed up so far are either currently using [Linux][15], some Unix variant, [BeOS][16], or [Amiga][17] computers, or about to make the switch. [Starbucks][18] is on there — that’s going to seriously cut into the number of Seattle webloggers that sign up.

[12]: http://www.apple.com/ “Apple”
[13]: http://www.macworldexpo.com/ “Macworld Conference and Expo”
[14]: http://www.microsoft.com/ “Microsoft”
[15]: http://www.linux.org/ “The Linux Home Page at Linux Online”
[16]: http://www.bebits.com/ “BeBits – The Best Source of BeOS Software!”
[17]: http://www.amiga.org/ “Amiga.org – The site for Amiga support and news”
[18]: http://www.starbucks.com/ “Starbucks Homepage”

Anyway, you get my point.

# Is Microsoft ‘Blogophobic’? #

Apparently, there’s been a fair amount of back-and-forth discussion in the comments to Ellen’s [list of Blogophobic companies][19] as to whether or not Microsoft should be listed, with [my experiences][20] being one of the more prominent arguments for why they should be. Ellen e-mailed me tonight to ask my opinion.

[19]: http://rights.journalspace.com/?cmd=displaycomments&dcid=1&entryid=1 “The Bloggers’ Rights Blog: Blogophobic Companies/Organizations”
[20]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/of_blogging_and.html “Of Blogging and Unemployment”

In short: Absolutely not.

What, you’re surprised? The guy who got booted off the Microsoft campus for posting a picture on his weblog _doesn’t_ think that Microsoft belongs on the Blogophobic list?

Damn skippy I don’t. I’ve had the same opinion of what happened to me ever since the incident took place: I made a mistake, and while I think Microsoft could have handled the situation better than they did, they were entirely within their rights to do what they did.

[From my wrap-up][21] posted two days after I was ushered off campus:

[21]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/fifteen_minutes.html#blame “Who’s to blame?”

> Who’s to blame? In the end — me. I really don’t blame Microsoft for their actions. By my best guess, they saw me as breaking the rules…and decided that rather than give me a second chance and run the risk of me doing something similar in the future, it would be better to just cut me loose before I could do any more damage. […] I may not like the way that they handled this. […] However, I cannot fault them for making the decision that they did, however much I wish that that they had made a different decision.

As the old saying goes, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Not only did I happen to be one of the first [highly][22]-[publicized][23] cases of a major company dismissing someone for a weblog post, but that company was Microsoft, which added a whole new angle to the stories. Not only was Microsoft dismissing someone for reasons that many people would find trivial, but the person they were dismissing was an admitted fan of traditional rival Apple’s products — and it was a [photo of those very products][24] which triggered the entire thing! You couldn’t _ask_ for a better setup than that for another round of Microsoft bashing.

[22]: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/10/29/1421223&mode=thread&tid=109&tid=187 “/.: Microsoft Fires Mac Fan For Blog Photo”
[23]: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3341689/ “Blogger dismissed from Microsoft”
[24]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/even_microsoft.html “Even Microsoft wants G5s”

However, as with most things, it’s hardly that simple. There are two major reasons why I don’t believe my experiences should put Microsoft in the “Blogophobic” category.

1. **I was in the wrong.**

[As I’ve said before][25], I made a mistake. I may wish that Microsoft had taken a different approach after finding my post, but it was my mistake, and I paid the price. Life goes on.

2. **Microsoft _supports_ weblogging.**

[Robert Scoble][26] has been a prominent and prolific Microsoft weblogger for quite some time now, since long before I was dismissed. He’s also quite good a what he does — I may not always agree with him (apparently they forgot to stock the snackroom in my building on the Microsoft campus with the right [Kool-Aid][27]), but he’s a fan of Microsoft’s work, and he writes what he believes.

He also doesn’t just blindly fawn over everything Microsoft does (though, admittedly, there are times when it seems like it). However, he knows the difference between saying something like “Product X sucks” (as in my example above) and saying “[we need to work on this.][28]” It may seem like a minor thing, but there’s a huge difference in tone there. I know I’ve seen him say that there are areas and products where Microsoft could do better, but I don’t think I’ve seen him out-and-out slam Microsoft for something.

(There’s also one huge difference between Robert and I — he is employed directly by Microsoft, while I was a third-party contractor. The gap between being a Microsoft employee and being an employee of a temp agency who contracts you to a second company who happens to provide on-campus services to Microsoft is immense.)

Beyond Robert, though, there are a multitude of Microsoft-employed webloggers. [blogs.msdn.com][29] currently lists 1,239 different weblogs — that really doesn’t sound like a company that’s afraid of letting its employees blog to me. I’d bet that every single one of those webloggers knows where to draw the line between what is and what is not permissible to talk about on their sites, too.

Much as it pains me to point this out, too, I have to ask — are there any current Apple employees aside from [Dave Hyatt][30] weblogging? Not that I’m about to chuck my PowerMac G5 out the door, buy a PC and [drink the Kool-Aid][31] (at least that flavor, I’m still quite happy with my Apple-flavored Kool-Aid) over an issue as trivial as this, but if you _really_ want to use this as a basis for comparing whether a company is blog-friendly or not, Microsoft really isn’t doing badly at all.

[25]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/fifteen_minutes.html#mistake “Yes — I made a mistake”
[26]: http://scoble.weblogs.com/ “Microsoft Geek Blogger”
[27]: http://www.google.com/search?q=scoble+kool-aid&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 “Google for ‘scoble kool-aid'”
[28]: http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2005/01/09.html#a9154 “Microsoft the new IBM?”
[29]: http://blogs.msdn.com/ “blogs.msdn.com”
[30]: http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/hyatt/ “Surfin’ Safari”
[31]: http://www.google.com/search?q=%22drink+the+kool-aid%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 “Google for ‘drink the kool-aid'”

So, to sum up: The Bloggers’ Bill of Rights, while well-motivated, doesn’t look to me to be all that useful in the real world; Microsoft isn’t ‘Blogophobic’; and I _talk a lot_ when given the opportunity. Geez. See what happens when someone actually _asks_ my opinion on something? Over 2,400 words on whether people should be surprised when they get canned for being snarky about their job on their weblog.

You’re probably better of leaving me to play with silly [online quizzes][32] and [memes][33]. Less pain for your newsreader, at the very least. ;)

[32]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2005/01/dominant_intell.html “Dominant Intelligence”
[33]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2005/01/timeline_meme.html “Timeline Meme”