December 3, 2010

Wikileaks: the free press fight of our time?


Don't be confused by the new battlefield of the Internet, Wikileaks's ability to continue publishing is shaping up to be a traditional free press fight of our time.

"If this were a newspaper and the government shut down its printing presses, there would be an national outrage, and that's precisely what's happening here," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University.

To put it in some perspective, imagine this scenario:

A U.S. newspaper received hundreds of documents that exposed the inner workings of government decision-making at the highest levels, and published a compendium of the documents, using its own printing press.

As the newspaper special edition started to roll off the press and onto the trucks, the truck drivers found that the streets in front of the printing facility were blocked by big trucks and public works crews who suddenly decided to tear up the street without notice.

The newspaper delivery drivers, ever resourceful, used a rear exit and started delivering the papers to their on-the-ground delivery people in neighborhoods across the city. But those people were constantly getting pulled over by local police for minor traffic infractions. Others followed the delivery people and picked up every newspaper that was tossed on the front lawns. Most subscribers never got their morning paper.

At the newsstands, shadowy people either stole newspapers out of the boxes, or simply nailed them shut.

Back in the newsroom, a computer hardware company informed the editor-in-chief that it was coming to collect the computers that the newspaper leased to put out the newspaper. The reason: using the technology to publish documents that supposedly weren't rightfully theirs to publish.

The action was effective: this newspaper with a circulation of 500,000 people only managed to get this special, newsworthy edition out to only a tenth of its subscribers.

Freedom of the press? Sure, this newspaper has the right to run its own presses. The government and its partisan supporters would never interfere with that process. (Or would they?)

But they could make it difficult to disseminate the information.

Take this scenario and apply it to Web publishing. I would argue that this is exactly what we're seeing now with Wikileaks, the secrets-spilling Website that's been at the center of massive leaks that are exposing U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents are helping people to judge whether or not the U.S. government's public statements square with its behavior behind the scenes.

I don't think that Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has yet said Wikileaks does not have the right to publish, though the Senate foreign intelligence committee is apparently calling for Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange, to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. We'll see if the U.S. Justice Department can do that.

But there are government and economic forces at work that appear to be putting pressure on the infrastructure that underpins Web publishing, in the case of Wikileaks.

We are seeing the outer limits of freedom of speech and the press being tested right now. Are Web service providers hiding behind the language of their "terms of service," rather than wrapping their enterprise in the cloak of the First Amendment?

In the past few days, Amazon has booted Wikileaks off of its servers for not following its "terms of service."

"It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," Amazon wrote.

But generally speaking, the U.S. government does not have copyright protections for the work its officials produce.

Moving on past Amazon, another web service provider, Tableau Software, which allows users to post charts, was asked by Sen. Joe Lieberman to take down some charts depicting Wikileaks' references to countries. The information itself was not secret or classified per se.

But the senator put government pressure on this Seattle company, which caved, and took down the charts, according to this MSNBC report.

Next up: a web service provider called EveryDNS. Blaming web attacks that are destabilizing its infrastructure, EveryDNS stopped doing business with Wikileaks, which effectively took the site offline until it had to switch to a service in Switzerland. Instead of using, the site is now available at

Reuters reports that the French government is also looking at ways to deny Wikileaks use of web servers in that country.

This is all troubling behavior, in my book. What do you think? Let's kickstart a conversation about this critical topic.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Good Reads

November 22, 2010

Note to Rupert: My iPad's Web browser will eat your "Daily" newspaper for lunch

It's a brisk news day in tech this Monday before Thanksgiving. Here's what I find interesting:

* First up, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users woke up to a little dash of Christmas right before the holidays: It's the new iOS 4.2. The software update brings some goodies to the iDevices, especially the iPad. For me, three features that tap the devices wireless capabilities are new: AirPlay (play music over Wi-Fi); AirPrint (print stuff over Wi-Fi) and Find My iPhone (find your lost or stolen iPhone via 3G or Wi-Fi). Hit Engadget for a review of iOS 4.2

* Next, Netflix just launched a new "streaming-only" monthly plan, for $7.99 a month. But they jacked up prices on "streaming + DVD" plans to $9.99 a month and up. People are complaining on the company site that Netflix doesn't offer new enough content on its Watch Instantly stream to justify a streaming-only price at $7.99. I tend to agree. I'll be taking a closer look at Hulu Plus through my Roku now.

* Here's a hypothetical: if you're a billionaire media tycoon who makes a lot of money off newspapers, but feel threatened by the Web, what would you do if a device like the iPad magically appeared? Why, try to re-create newspaper economics on this Internet tablet of course! This isn't a hypothetical: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is working on an iPad-only digital "newspaper", called The Daily, that publishes once a day on the device. Really? Really. Bwahahahahahaha!


(Photo of Rupert Murdoch via PaidContent)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Geeks, Good Reads

July 22, 2009

Tweeting dads in the delivery room

To Tweet or not to Tweet during your wife's labor? That is the question.

Back in October, I used Twitter to post 9 or so updates throughout the day as my wife went through labor. It gave me something to do with my fidgety fingers in my downtime, and some friends and relatives found it useful. (I informed my Facebook friends I'd be Tweeting and sent them a link to my Twitter page.)

Twitter, in effect, was really the sole efficient way to communicate in a "one-to-many" way to people outside the comfortable bubble we were in at the hospital. My pleasant wife only begged me to not Tweet anything gross, which I obliged.

At the end of it all, we brought home a healthy, gorgeous baby girl. A few days later, I went back through my Tweets and compiled them, and saved them in a screen-shot on my computer, for posterity. It's now a cool little digital memento for us that I can print out and add to our family photo album.

My colleague Joe Burris says in a story today that Tweeting dads are becoming more common.

Of course, there's a debate on how to use such technology during such a sensitive time as a child's birth. I guess all I can say that I think it's really up to the couple to come to an agreement and set some ground rules. You both should feel comfortable about what it means to Tweet the delivery. And Dads, it goes without saying that you shouldn't let it get in the way of any of your fatherly duties.

So what do you think? Is live-Tweeting your kid's birth a ridiculous idea or just another sign of the times in our texting/Twitter digital lives?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Good Reads, Smartphones, Social Media

July 8, 2009

A quick round-up from the local blogs

I've been a little busy the last week putting together some print stories, but finally today got a chance to do some catching up on my blogroll. With a cup of coffee and a cup of instant oatmeal in hand (one at a time) I took a quick cruise through the Baltimore/Maryland/DC tech blogosphere. Here's a snapshot of what people are writing about:

* DCTechEvents. Scads of events and meet-ups all week, except for Friday, when apparently all the DC Techies just drink alone.

* UMBC's Ebiquity blog takes a look at the "high impact factor" of the Journal of Web Semantics.

* Entrepreneur Dave Troy takes a look at Baltimore from the train in his simply-titled post: "From the train, Baltimore looks like hell."

* Beltway Startups covers some local tech-company news, such as Merkle (of Columbia, Md.) buying Cognitive Data, and Cognitive Data buying CMS Direct. Is this a case of big fish eating smaller fish, which ate an even smaller fish?

* In one of the more pleasantly insightful Michael Jackson-inspired blog posts, local tech guru Mario Armstrong writes about the recently deceased pop singer's patent on special shoes that would help give you the illusion you're leaning forward at a 45-degree angle.

* One Fine Jay gave himself a new blog look, and he's got a post about how Twitter hashtag contests are hurting the free service. Amen, brother. Oh, and he thinks the phenomenon of bloggers generating mindless lists also stinks. Double amen to that. (I haven't done any lists for this blog, I think, though I'll concede you might see me generating an occasional list or two here; I will try, try, try to make them absolutely useful, One Fine Jay. I promise.)

* Want to learn more about Wolfram Alpha (that new computational search engine)? Somewhat Frank sat down with one of its co-founders for an interview, with video. See below.

* Technosailor, taking a cue from the Steve McNair death coverage, urges the mainstream media to report important breaking news even if it's a rumor, to hedge your bets.

* Things are looking up for Technotheory, who is off to Barcelona for the summer. Good luck! Have fun! Eat lots of tapas for me.

* EastCoastBlogging writes about Tweetdeck and Evernote as a match made in heaven. I haven't gotten into using either app yet. Should I?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:39 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Good Reads, Media, Social Media

June 5, 2009

Good Reads Friday


It's a wet Friday here in Baltimore and I'm home caring for my sick daughter (who is now peacefully sleeping.) So now's my chance to catch up on and share some Good Reads I've come across in my virtual travels this week. Do you have a favorite tech-related story you read this week that made you ponder something a little differently? Please share in the comments, and I'll add to the post through the day. (Update: No self-promotion!)

:: Tweeter @chipmcmann suggested I try "Unix turns 40: The past, present and future of a revolutionary OS" Good, easy read that gives you insight on the (relatively) long history of computing and UNIX.

:: @OneFineJay blogs about "proactively maintaining your corner of the web" in Futureproofing: the economics of scale. Should we be worried about all these Web services that probably won't be around forever. Worth pondering, since we all seem to be uploading and sharing more and more of our personal lives and information at an increasing rate with myriad Web sites.

:: Work in a place where the dynamic seems to be "management by crisis"? Take a gander at the latest post on Rands in Repose. Quote: "Management by crisis is exhilarating, but it values velocity over completeness; it sacrifices creativity for the illusion of progress." (via @jbusteed)

:: The Maryland Daily Record's On The Record blog covers how a couple of surveys left Baltimore off their highest rankings for thriving tech areas. "What gives?" Jackie Sauter writes. Indeed. There are so many competing rankings and studies out there, put out by both private and government interests with their own agendas, that they all sorta blur together and start to feel diluted and meaningless.  Among the big Baltimore-area success stories over the last several years have been and Bill Me Later.

:: What the heck is Palm thinking with these Pre ads on Facebook? AdvertisingAge considers the Zen of the ad campaign. (thanks, @dwplanit)

:: Wouldn't you know it. San Francisco can submit their 311 requests via Twitter. Technosailor considers their approach vs. Washington DC's, which doesn't rely on Twitter. Should government put so much emphasis (and data) in Twitter, which hasn't proven yet it could be around for the long haul?

What other Good Reads did I miss? Add below, with your Twitter account, if you have one, so I can give your nerdy self some props.

(Photo credit: "No Substitute," by accent on eclectic on

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Good Reads
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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