Let’s all grow up a little, shall we?

I’m hoping that the brouhaha (or maybe it’s actually more of a kerfuffle) over whether or not TechCrunch50 co-organizer Jason Calacanis plagiarized something written 10 years ago by a former DEMO organizer is actually a clever, top-secret strategy to boost the Google News page-rank of both conferences. Because the alternative is that this is one of the most childish outbursts I can recall from a group of alleged adults — right up there with photo-blogger and Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk calling a staffer at San Francisco’s MOMA an a-hole on his blog for not letting him take pictures in the museum’s atrium.

According to a post at TechCrunch and one at Alexander Muse’s Texas Startup blog, someone named Deb McAlister, who was once involved with the DEMO conference but apparently isn’t any longer, wrote to Muse and said that an email Jason sent around to his oh-so-private mailing list (don’t get me started on that whole fiasco) with tips for startups on how to do a demo was actually a blatant rip-off of something she wrote for DEMO founder David Coursey about 10 years ago. According to Ms. McAlister, approximately 1,893 of the 2,200 words in the Calacanis mail were “DIRECTLY lifted” from her piece.

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Salon builds it — but will anyone come?

For a number of months now, the online magazine Salon has been building a hosted blog network/media hub called open.salon.com, which launched this morning. According to a recent blog post by Open Salon director Kerry Lauerman a few weeks ago, the network has attracted about 1,300 bloggers while it was in beta. I came across some invites that Kerry posted on a number of blogs, including this one; other bloggers participating include this one and this one. One blog quoted from Salon’s invitation email:

“We don’t want to oversell it, but we really think that with the help of smart media people like you, we can begin to invert the pyramid of only a few people controlling the global conversation, and figure out new ways to liberate great ideas and great writing for an ever-growing avid audience.”

According to the description by Lauerman, the new Salon site or network is both a hosted blog community and a media hub or aggregator. When you go to the open.salon.com site, you get a “cover page” that features posts from a variety of blogs, as well as a tag cloud showing the most popular tags. The page also shows the most highly-rated posts — since blog posts within Open Salon can be given a “thumbs up,” much like other social-media sites (and some mainstream media sites such as globeandmail.com, which has a “recommend” feature on every story). If you set up a blog, you get to add friends, and then their most recent posts appear in your sidebar.

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Hitler sure made some funny videos

John Biggs’ post at CrunchGear about a video his coworker made lampooning Twitter (which I’ve embedded below for your viewing pleasure) provided hard evidence that the Hitler video meme is still alive and well, putting it right up there with “You’re The Man Now, Dog” as one of the longest-lived Internet memes. What’s fascinating about the Hitler video theme is that it’s so incredibly inappropriate and tasteless that it simultaneously makes some people outraged — at the idea that something so serious would be used to make fun of something so inane and ridiculous — and at the same time makes fun of those people for being so serious. Wired magazine wrote a great roundup of the Hitler meme back in May, noting that the same clip (from the movie Der Untergang or Downfall) has been used to make fun of Xbox 360 problems, Vista blue screens and fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Enjoy — or not 🙂



Rocketboom: Sony signs rent-to-own deal

Rocketboom founder Andrew Baron has been dropping hints for some time now about a big deal involving his occasionally troubled video-blogging startup, and now the news has finally broken: Rocketboom has signed a seven-figure distribution and marketing deal with Sony. As described by Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch, the arrangement is structured in such a way that the entertainment giant could either acquire Rocketboom if things go well, or relinquish control to Baron if they don’t.

Andrew gives his rationale for the deal in a post on his blog. Among other things, he notes in passing that the legal battle for control of Rocketboom with former host (and disputed co-founder) Amanda Congdon made it virtually impossible for the video blog to sign any partnerships or financing deals as other startups have.

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Apple to iPhone users: No app for you

At the risk of inciting the Apple faithful and iPhone devotees, I can’t help but note that the recent shenanigans with the App Store are more than a little disturbing. As Don Reisinger at Mashable notes, the store belongs to Apple, and therefore the company can do whatever it wants — including removing apps without warning, then allowing them back on, and then suddenly removing them again. And it’s entirely possible that the company had a good reason for removing the most recent app, Box Office. But was it because the app was insecure in some way? Because it breached the terms of the company’s developer agreement? Because it made the iPhone unstable? No one is saying.

It could be that — as some of the commenters on the Gizmodo post about the latest removal are speculating — Box Office infringed on some sort of trademark (there are reports that the app has been renamed “Now Playing”), or was unstable in some way and caused technical issues with iPhones. But there is no way of knowing. What’s interesting to me are the numbers of negative comments, including many from developers, who seem to be less than impressed with the way Apple seems to remove apps willy-nilly — without any notice or explanation — and who see this kind of attitude as being all of a piece with the company’s use of DRM and other overly intrusive strategies.

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Sad news for copyright: Patry quits blogging

William Patry, a giant in the field of copyright law and a welcome voice of sanity amid the frequent clashes between copyright and digital media, has decided to end his blog (although he has since said he is reinstating his archive after initially removing it). His first reason for doing so — that he has become frustrated by the fact that people conflate his views on copyright with those of his employer, Google, and that he is tired of dealing with “the crazies” — is easy to sympathize with. As a prominent voice of reason, he has no doubt been the subject of many attacks from both sides of the issue. But it’s his second reason that makes me (and so do some others) more than a little depressed. As he describes it:

Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners.

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Group reveals (gasp!) Larry’s address

So Google is being sued by a couple who believe that their privacy was invaded when a photo of their house appeared on the Web giant’s Streetview service, which features 360-degree photos taken from a fleet of specially-equipped Volkswagen Beetles. And a privacy watchdog group has tried to bring attention to the issue by releasing a document that contains some photos of Google co-founder Larry Page’s house, as well a dissection of the likely route that he takes to work (assuming he doesn’t take the helicopter, of course). This, the group says, shows the “chilling amount of visual information” that Google has.

Does it really, though? All that the photos (one of which appeared at Valleywag some time ago) really show are the outside gate of Page’s home, with a few cars in the parking lot, and an aerial view of the top of his house and property. There’s a blurry figure who the privacy group speculates is a bodyguard drinking a pop, and then we get a closeup of the next-door neighbour’s alarm sign, which tells us they use a specific alarm service. The route to work, meanwhile, is simply a series of photos of the intersections that the group feels might mimic the path Larry may or may not take to the Google campus.

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