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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

State of Florida Seems to be Sending Automated Foreclosure Notices En Masse

Fraudulent foreclosures were reported in the US media several years ago, especially after the had bubble burst in 2008. These can be devastating as they can also shock children at a very young age (collective punishment), usually for the enrichment of some private corporations such as banks (which received bailouts, i.e. the very opposite of foreclosures).

What happens when these foreclosures — fraudulent or not — get sent en masse and are potentially signed by machines? Someone from Florida sent me the following documents, serving to demonstrate what’s quite possibly abuse of power in order to confiscate people’s homes.

Watch the following intimidating letter:

Is that a robo-signer:

The following serve to demonstrate the same handwriting used for different people/names:

Look closely:

“Their lawyer sent me this copy-and-paste email foreclosure notices,” told me the source.

Preying on the vulnerable who lack legal advice and cannot afford to challenge these in court, the people named above (in signatures) probably make a good living taking other people’s houses.

For those still not seeing what’s iffy in the above letter, bear in mind that many people (perhaps many thousands) are likely to have received virtually identical letters. Ask around in Florida, dear journalists, and you might have a story worth more than Trump and Clinton puff pieces.

Stallman in Slashdot

mid_picture-032-retouch

“Richard Stallman Speaks About Back Doors After NSA Documents Leak” is the title of a submission that I summarised as follows: “Companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Google are scrambling to restore trust amid fresh litigation over the PRISM surveillance program. Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and a newly-inducted member of the 2013 Internet Hall of Fame, speaks about not only abandoning the cloud, which he warned about 5 years ago, but also escaping software with back doors. “I don’t think the US government should use operating systems made in China,” he says in this new interview, “for the same reason that most governments shouldn’t use operating systems made in the US and in fact we just got proof since Microsoft is now known to be telling the NSA about bugs in Windows before it fixes them.””

The text for the next part of the interview is not ready yet. I’ve just released this second part (now in the front page of Slashdot), but I need to do some fact-checking on SELinux (NSA-developed) before releasing the next part. Busy times since the NSA leaks…

Disinformation on the Web

Jesse Ventura

TERMS like “conspiracy theory” have become increasingly common when describing particular stories that are dubious. These terms (there are variations) have become synonymous with “false story” because more often than not they comprise scare-mongering and misdirection. There have been suggestions that sites promoting those “conspiracy theories” should be banned, but really, such theories have always existed and spread verbally. One of the fun things about the Web is that we can give visibility to such “conspiracy theories” and then bedunk them, helping people acquire or strengthen their critical skills. Like lateral thinking, critical skills equip people with a set of tests to apply in order to assess the validity of an argument, be it about religion, history, or whatever. So I’m all in favour of letting “conspiracy theories” spread. They help show people that not everything they hear is true, not even what they see on their television set. (Credit: image by Cory Barnes)

Social Networks/Content Hosting Always Evolved

Back in the days, people created Geocities-hosted Web sites. Well, Yahoo! has axed it, shortly after getting abducted by Microsoft in fact, so Geocities is no more (although many sites similar to it still exist). I created my site there in 1997/1998 and a few years later I got interested in Open Diary, which in some sense resembles Live Journal. Further down the line there was the phenomenon of blogging, which started in particular sites like Blogspot and Blogger, among many more (some of them are not surviving well). Free software like B2 and WordPress soon filled a gap and enabled more and more people to take control of their blogging platform and also register their own sites for the purpose. Around the same time, sites like MySpace grew, but they soon perished mostly because of competition which included an extension to ‘people-indexing’ services (resembling classmates reunion sites). Facebook was prominent among those. For news and discussion people had Digg, Reddit, and several more large sites, Many experiments emulating the above failed miserably for reasons that would require a separate long post. Later on, in recent years, celebrities joined Twitter and helped it grow very quickly, along with Free software clones such as Identi.ca. What joins together many of those services and pieces of Free software one can download to substitute the hosted prison is that they provide people with a place to express themselves and also find out what others are thinking. The thoughts of others are sometimes expressed by citation (news) or multimedia. It all helps weaken the cetralisation of so-called ‘mass media’ and it empowers people. This is one of the better achievements of the Web — that alongside wikis such as Wikipedia, but that’s another category of sites and a subject for another day.

People’s blogs have become somewhat less active and more people choose to post material under other people’s platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on). Journalists too failed to evolve (for the most part) and their occupation dying, mostly to be replaced by PR. One has to transition constantly. The world today is inventing and progressing faster than ever before, especially on the Web which is relatively new.

My Take on How Digg Works

An article about the way Digg works has just been published. I gave some input to it, which probably reflects on my view of Digg. Here it goes.

1. Can we start briefly with your background, especially with Digg? How long have you been a user, and when and how did you become an active user? About how many links a day do you submit? How many followers do you have? How often do you get stories to the front page?

I joined Digg back in 2006 when it was still a young Web site that attracted GNU/Linux users. I became an active user about a month after I had signed up and habitually submitted around 5-10 stories per day. I am not sure how many followers I have. Over 2000 people marked me as their friend and some of them regularly vote my stories up (digg them). My performance as a Digger probably peaked in mid-2006 when I made the front page about 3 times a day. These days, I rarely perform quite as well because things changed a lot while I was absent in 2007. The site grew.

2. Can you walk me through step by step of a recent instance where you submitted a link and promoted it to the front page? How did you come across the link, what made you think it was right for the Digg community? And once you submitted the link, how did you promote it? Through IM, shout outs, some other method? In other words, what drove it to the front page?

I read many RSS feeds and I stumble upon stories which I think are important to GNU/Linux users like myself (many of whom happen to follow my submissions by choice, so focus is important). My aim is to share these stories with people. Most of them pertain to adoption of Free software, which I care a lot about personally. I do not promote stories artificially. I let Digg just do its thing. The fact that some people keep track of my submissions out of genuine interest helps a lot, too. I would rarely promote a link because it is dishonest, it is a waste of time, and it is not necessary if the submitted story is an important one.

3. What about stories where you’re not the first to submit it — someone else found it first. How do you usually come across these? Do people send you shout outs? Do they IM you? Do you follow the “upcoming” page or the recommended page? Obviously, your answer might be ‘all of the above,’ but what methods do you use more than others?

I always concede submissions if I find that there is already something similar submitted. I do not communicate in order to coordinate anything. Long-time users are systematic only in their passion for the topic/s that they focus on. I personally disabled shout-outs because I perceive them as comprising lots of noise that’s designed to game the site.

4. What is your opinion of all the stories about “bury brigades,” secret groups of power editors and various other conspiracy theories about why certain stories make it to the front page while others don’t? Do you think the algorithms are sufficient enough so that Digg isn’t easily gamed by marketers?

No, and I would love to see Digg tightening the rules, although I fear it’s virtually impossible. I have come across bury brigades, abuses, stalking, and been a victim of them too. There is also plenty of libel being spread. To me, addressing this issue is equally important. I have left about 14,000 comments in Digg but I hardly comment these days due to rampant abuse that’s slanderous. Policing of behaviour in the site is generally disappointing.

5. If you had to give a person advice for how to consistently get stories to the front page, what would it be?

To be perfectly honest, the democracy in Digg is an illusion at best. Staff ‘elites’ enjoy a status that’s skin to editorial control, whereas some lesser-revered users have few eyes on their submissions, so they receive little attention. This is not to say that’ ‘sensior’ users cheat; however, user status by all means plays a significant role.

My Interview with Richard Stallman

In Datamation

Interview with PJ on Groklaw and Beyond

GROKLAW’S founder, Pamela Jones (better known as “PJ”), has done an interview with me in Datamation. In the interview she explains her ambitions and drive in following the SCO case for several years. She also expands onto other areas and shed some light on the future direction of Groklaw. From the interview: “Obviously, patent cases are now stage front and center. But we also have an arrangement now where any lawyer can contact me and ask technical questions of our members.”

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