02 November 2008

The End of Google

I found my own blog this morning through an unusual route. That is, I found another blog based upon Patriots and Peoples, but without my input, nor my explicit consent. It was not up-to-date, nor complete, and it contained alterations that I dislike and oppose. The blog in question is a sample Mobiforumz blog (I will not provide the link--Google them if you want). It is called Journey of James Stripes and consists of posts I wrote 18 April - 2 August, 2008. It has all the appearances of having been created by some webcrawling robot. Each of my posts is attributed to "hidayath," who may or may not be a real person.

Theft might be the right word.

I was ego-surfing as part of the process of helping a young man just out of his teenage years understand how a potential employer might look at his MySpace or Facebook page, or use Google, to supplement his self-disclosure in a job application. I've been ego-surfing longer than I've known the term, and am well aware of what comes up when my name is fed into search engines. This practice of checking up on myself was part of how I evaluated when someone owning a few shares in the company was touting it. It returned a lot of unrelated junk a year ago. It does better now, but still lacks Google's ability to find what it should.

Because I have an uncommon name, a search for me finds mostly stuff I've written. Many of the hits that are unrelated to me connect to "St. James Infirmary Blues" by the White Stripes, or Jack White attending a James Bond premier, or articles in the Stars and Stripes newspaper with photos by Stephanie James.

If articles I've written for scholarly journals are not returned in the first few pages by a search engine, it's not worth using. My article on Russell Means, for example, should be found easily. If one plumbs the depths, my contribution concerning "blind swine" to Edward Winter's enterprise should appear.

Most often Patriots and Peoples is the top hit. It seems as though Google thinks that this blog is my most important work.

When I found a Mobiforumz blog with my name in the title in the first page of hits, I was curious. My first glance at the site brought to memory many frustrating Google searches for specific information. Often I use the web to quickly find a credible source of real information--a book or website that I recall dimly. For years, Amazon has filtered its way to the top of most searches. In the past few years Wikipedia has risen to a place of preeminence. As the universal encyclopedia written equally by the ignorant and the knowledgeable improves, Google's tendency becomes less fatal.

More and more, however, it seems that searches through Google turn up information that originates with Wikipedia or Amazon, but was cannibalized from there for another site. Some cannibals add a service, Pickii, for instance sells books too. Many of these other sites contribute no original data, but exist solely to offer an abundance of the advertisements absent from the originating sites. These Para-Sites are an inevitable product of late-capitalism, and its tendency to nurture marketing saavy more than quality product development. They are the "fast food" of an information diet. They produce information bloat akin to what one would expect from a steady diet of Big Macs.

Copyright Issues

Patriots and Peoples carries a Creative Commons license. Today I changed this license as a consequence of my ego-surfing misadventure. Previously I had encouraged derivative work, thinking of the sort of use that was called "fair use" before lawyers and the free market went after the work of honest people.
In K-12, higher education, and after-school programs and workshops, teachers face conflicting information about their rights, and their students’ rights, to quote copyrighted material. They also confront complex, restrictive copyright policies in their own institutions. As a result, teachers use less effective teaching techniques, teach and transmit erroneous copyright information, fail to share innovative instructional approaches, and do not take advantage of new digital platforms.
The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy (2007)
When I added my CC license, I chose "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States." After witnessing derivative work with advertising hyperlinks thrown randomly into the text, dating site marketing, and other changes, I had to reconsider. This work now carries the "Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States" license. I understood before I wrote my first Amazon review that once something is in cyberspace, the author loses control. Socrates said the same thing about printing speeches in the Phaedrus, but the global internet kills authors with a relish unknown in ancient Greece.

Presenting one's corpus to cannibals is another matter.

Derivative Work

Chesstiger's "Two rook pawns with an extra pawn on the opposite side" builds on something I posted as "Fox in the Chicken Coop." Although I created the diagram found there, it almost certainly has been independently created by others. Nevertheless, Chesstiger mentioned my Chess Skills blog when he posted the diagram with his own extended analysis. Scholarship is the usual term for building on the work of others, and it should not require explicit authorization by the copyright holder. Still, the Creative Commons license seemed to connote a world where knowledge is freely shared for everyone's benefit. That was my intent. The license change should not affect responsible extensions of this sort.

My writing is also replicated by Reuters and similar services with full attribution (see Lee Resolution). That derivative work does no harm, and may confer benefits both to me and to readers. Reuters also has explicit permission. Alas, Google does not pick up these syndicated articles often, at least not any of mine.

Google seems to be finding too easily this new Para-Site containing my words in an alien context hostile to my intent. As it crowds its way onto the search pages with others that mine Wikipedia, Google loses its value. Google's recent drop in stock value has been part of the painful economic correction afflicting all markets; however, if the search engine can be hijacked so easily, it may be still overpriced.


Mark Adams said...

My approach is to copyright everything outright. If people want to republish my work, they can ask -- I'll probably be inclined to say yes anyway. Otherwise, whatever applies as "fair use" is fine with me. (I've been known to quote a section, but not an entire work, and certainly not to alter it.)

Baysage said...

Just thought I'd point out that the win for White pointed out by chesstiger ("two rook pawns with the extra pawn on the opposite side") is laborious in the extreme.

Instead of 1.Kg2, White wins simply with 1.Kh2 Kg4 2.Kg2 and White has the opposition. Black must give way, and White will maintain the opposition and walk his g-pawn down the board. Same principle holds true on the next example where White plays 1.Kh3 (not 1.Kg3).

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