Friday, April 13, 2007

Hey - Neutrality is Working Just Fine for Switzerland

After doing some research on my own, and familiarizing myself with the concept and how it affects those involved in the debate, I have emerged as a supporter of network neutrality. Not having a previous stance on the issue, one might question how I reached a conclusion so quickly? The answer seems natural to me, something so simple and so complicated at the same time, much like filesharing, yet something that one person or a group of people does not seem likely to stop or control. So what is the debate behind this still little-known issue?

While almost every article I read on the subject even had its own problems defining network neutrality, my understanding is that certain website owners wish to charge money based on traffic flow, instead of having a free and open internet (the current state of affairs). For example, since has so many more visitors each day than Tony’s Com 125 Blog, should Amazon be able to charge more for the service it provides to so many more users? The best answer to this I could find lies in the article “Net Neutrality Debate Remains Contentious,” by K.C. Jones. Jones answers the question by comparing the network to an electric grid, which similarly provides a service to multiple people. Built on implicit theory, Jones states that the “grid does not care if you plug in a toaster, an iron, or a computer. Consequently, it has survived and supported giant waves of innovation in the appliance market.” Upon reading this, the debate became so much clearer to me, as did the answer I was looking for. Of course, there are two sides to every debate, and it would be unfair not to examine the opposite position.

Contrarily, there are telecommunications executives that have in mind a fast-lane idea for higher-paying content providers. In other words, these executives argue that they should be allowed to prioritize websites carrying information that is serving a higher purpose (Jones). Furthermore, those who really feel they are being cut-short by network neutrality are those in the cozy seats at corporations, looking as always to make a buck. This is not to criticize top executives, but is merely to point out that those being “affected” by network neutrality are not sleeping on the streets tonight. Whether or not they have a good point about traffic flow and purpose-serving information, they still possess comfortable jobs and comfortable lifestyles. Those who would be affected by the disappearance of network neutrality and the beginning of higher-paying content providers? The common man or woman, of course. As is with most things (taxes!), the common man or woman who makes a decent salary will always be much more affected by such issues than the CEO of a giant corporation. The source of my debate would stem right here, and then I would work outward to the fine details. The main issue, however, is who is actually losing money because of network neutrality? No one. No individual or company is actually losing money, they are simply playing on an even field with the rest of the internet, missing what they feel is the opportunity to gain revenue.

While this debate is much more intense than I can get into in this blog, I am a general supporter of maintaining network neutrality, for its simple lack of discrimination for who you are as a user. The basic concept of packet switching, with no regard for what type of information the packets are carrying, was the foundation for which the internet was built. Moreover, it has allowed the internet to grow into the social infrastructure it has become today, and to be thinking about reshaping it now seems foolish to me.


Jones, K.C. (2007, March 16). Net Neutrality Debate Remains Contentious. Information Week. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from,

Friday, April 6, 2007

'Second Life' Pretty Second-Rate to Real-Life Communication

Upon entering the growing online world of the game “Second Life,” I found myself questioning whether or not the use of the word ‘game’ is justified in a Second Life discussion. Unlike other computer or video games, in this world there is no specific destination, no specific time frame or goal, and no way to “die” or lose (no GAME OVER). This being said, why would anyone want to spend any time at all aimlessly wandering around in a virtual world? The answer that I came up with, and my true feelings on the situation, is that people have an intrinsic need or desire to belong to something that is bigger than themselves. Furthermore, social interaction – in fact, not even necessarily social interaction, but rather the presence of other people participating in the same game at the same time as you, is more psychologically rooted that what we first assume when discussing Second Life.

And now for the basis of my theory? Well, this certainly is a tough thesis to prove, and one that would take more than the three to four hours of evidence that I gathered exploring Second Life. I did, however, find some striking examples of this theory in action with Second Life. The first red flag to me that people want to be in Second Life more than they want to act in Second Life, was what I observed others doing in the game. While I attempted to make contact and communicate with many people over the course of a few hours, none of them seemed to be having any of my conversation (maybe my theory is wildly outrageous and I’m just uncool and unpopular?) Contrarily, I observed people walking around, driving around, dancing, watching movies, and flying. No one, to the best of my ability to interpret what was going on, was communicating with any sort of substance.

Needless to say, I was devastated. This completely shatters what I had pictured in my mind of how Second Life worked before I tried it! I was expecting much more of a chat room-like atmosphere, with constant communication among multiple users. In contrast, everyone seemed perfectly content exploring on their own, “doing their own thing.” As I previously stated, I admittedly did not spend enough time in Second Life to really gather all possible information as to the number of opportunities the world presents to the user. However, I do feel that from my experience in the community, people are more satisfied with the fact that they are present among others, than are they actively seeking out communication or group interaction.

As far as my actual experience within the game’s communities, I found it quite amusing that the general proximity of Second Life’s members, that is to say the “hot spots” or locations that contained the greatest number of users, were the locations that seemingly contained the greatest number of attractive “women.” Much like real life, in which women go to bars and clubs to dance and drink, and men follow them there to try and get a date, locations that were amateurishly titled “Hot Naked Girls,” had booming populations. Many of these locations had absolutely nothing to do with their titles! In other words, while the game does contain certain strip clubs and bars, it seemed that the only way a user would be able to get the world he/she created noticed would be to revisit a classic foundation block of the internet – sex sells.

While Second Life is no different than society in the humorous aspect of men seeking out women, I believe that it actually resembles very little about our world. From my short experience in attempting to interact with others, I have concluded that very few people that are purposely putting themselves in this social situation actually want to participate in social interaction. Therefore, being in Second Life is about equally as lonely as walking down the streets of Buffalo. Sure, there are many people surrounding you and a hustle-and-bustle city feeling that encompasses your walk, but who is going to talk to you? Maybe someone who actively supports Second Life and its effects on communication would like to call me out and disprove my theory? I would have a genuine interest in hearing your argument!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How Do You Get Your News?

The recent news topic that I chose for this assignment was Time, Inc.’s shutting down of the popular Life magazine brand that had just recently been resuscitated in 2004. The first source that I found for this matter was an Associated Press article in The Buffalo News, and the second was an online article on the Reuters website.

In looking at the printed newspaper version, I noticed that the article was very information-driven, and laid out in a concise manner to emphasize and present simply the necessary news. The first three paragraphs consisted of what happened or why there is a story; citing the “decline in the newspaper business and poor advertising outlook” as its grounds for making the decision to cut Life, Time said that it would “keep the Life brand going on the internet.” Furthermore, the next two paragraphs of the article stay consistent with the information-driven format, stating that Life was carried in 103 newspapers and was altogether shut down three times due to various competitions. Finally, the last two paragraphs of the newspaper article give a brief history of Life, providing its roots dating back to 1936 and its six year suspension in the 1970s. Overall, the newspaper article comes across as nothing more than the news – simple, accurate, and what the reader needs to know or the bottom line.

Interestingly enough, there was a stark contrast that I found to the printed version of the article in reading the electronic version. While I mentioned that the printed article focused almost exclusively on the facts and the bottom line, the online article had much more of a conversational style that touched upon the future of the online version of Life, and even the effect that the change had on certain employees. Despite being posted almost 24 hours before the newspaper article was printed, the electronic article was a bit longer and generally included more information. Beginning in a similar manner to the print version with simply the facts, the online article quickly delves into block quotes from Ann Moore, Time Inc. Chief Executive, and spokeswoman Dawn Bridges about the number of employees being laid off. Furthermore, the article gets quite personal at times: “The company plans to keep Managing Editor Bill Shapiro, Executive Editor Maggie Murphy, President Andy Blau and Publisher Peter Bauer, she [Bridges] said" (Reuters, 2007). Conversely, the newspaper version made no mention of employee lay-offs or any employee names. The final few paragraphs of the electronic article touch on the 10 million Life images that are said will be posted online as part of an imagery collection of the 20th century, followed by a quick analysis of jobs cut compared to its workforce quantity.

Moving forward, I found that, at least in this particular example, there is an easily identifiable difference between the way printed sources and electronic sources report on the same story. While newspapers, possibly because of the limited space and logistics of the paper, seem to stick to only the facts necessary for comprehension of the story, online media seems to have the ability to more easily explain further details that are not necessary for comprehension, but may bring flavor and unique voice to the story.

Moreover, I was surprised to read that despite how much more quickly online news can be received, studies have shown that newspapers are not dying at all (Edmonds, 2007). In fact, Lynn (2001) recorded that online readers were more likely to skip over national, international, and political news, or “front section” news, than newspaper readers. Furthermore, Edmonds (2007) goes on to state that while newspapers are focusing more and more on developing their online journalism each day, it is still unclear whether the Web will be able to generate enough money to support journalism as we know it in print.

In my personal opinion, Edmonds' words ring true when discussing this issue; first, there is little evidence to show that online news can generate enough revenue to wipe out newspapers completely. Secondly, I personally believe that there are still enough people who like to hold their newspaper in their hands each morning, and just like with any new technology, there is an adjustment period. The question which remains to be seen is how long it will take us to adjust to only-online news, if ever.


Associated Press. (2007, March 27). Time pulls plug on Life, again. The Buffalo News, p. A10.

Edmonds, R. (2007). Newspapers: Intro. The State of the News Media 2007: An Annual Report on American Journalism. Retrieved March 28, 2007, from

Lynn, A. (2001, February 1). People get more ‘top’ news in print than by computer, study shows. News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved March 28, 2007, from

Reuters. (2007, March 26). Time Inc. to end Life magazine but keep it online. Retrieved March 28, 2007, from

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Revolution is Coming!...eventually

One blog that really caught my eye when searching for Buffalo-related blog material was one entitled “Buffalo Geek,” located at The blogger is a 31 year old male who was born and raised in Buffalo, moved away, and has returned. While he does not state his name or bother with a pseudonym, he does reveal that he is a United States Air Force veteran and currently works for one of the top IT companies in the world as a systems engineer. He also adds that he looks forward to becoming part of the solution to a New Buffalo, rather than part of the problem, which I whole-heartedly stand behind him on this point. Buffalo Geek itself is not listed in Technorati; however, the author’s MySpace has a blog link that is listed at blog ranking 2,924,506. Stating he is a social libertarian, a fiscal conservative, and an overall free-thinker, it is easy to note upon viewing Buffalo Geek that anything and everything is game for conversation. There are specific “Town Politics” and “Erie County Politics” categories, and links on the side to a multitude of politicians, cities issues, schools, etc.

The tone of the political side of the blog is very much a conversationalist one that presents information in a seemingly bipartisan way, as opposed to taking much of a stand on either side. In other words, the author is not trying to force his political stance into the tone so much as he simply wants to allow the reader to gather all the facts about the current issues at hand, a la a newspaper or news telecast. Some examples of posts include: a link to a live audio stream of the Erie County Legislature voting on the 2007 budget on December 1, 2006, a rare stance taken on a piece about (in the author’s opinion) the unnecessary number of 37 libraries in Erie County to support a dwindling population, and a series of posts with complete coverage of the recent toll situation, fully-loaded with Buffalo News article excerpts followed by reaction and insight. Furthermore, the tone of pieces such as these is very much (as expected) pro-Buffalonian. That is to say, whenever a sarcastic remark is made or a stance taken against a politician, it is because the on-goings are not, in his opinion, fully benefiting the Buffalo community. To the local reader, the appeal to this style is massive, as it reminds one of a conversation with a friend about topics with which we Buffalonians are greatly familiar.

With so many blogs today constantly critiquing political and social issues on a daily basis, we are seeing a whole new age of people involving themselves in their own community. How is this done? One post on a blog can spark a debate that can affect the community and actually make its way back into the board room where politicians seemed, until now, so isolated from the rest of us. Tony Hung (2007) states “…what remains to be seen is how political leaders at local levels are dealing with this kind of phenomenon…” in reference to the people’s opinion being showcased in blogs.

While I somewhat agree with Hung that blogs have probably not reached their peak as far as directly influencing politicians, Alinta Thornton’s article “Does Internet Create Democracy?” (2002) argues that whether we like it or not, the media has an increasingly active role in political outcomes. We have reached the point where simply reporting on political issues is no longer interesting or engaging to an audience. Instead, experts and debaters must be brought onto shows to open up their firm viewpoints for the audience to agree or disagree with. On the other hand, Thornton goes on to say that until the Internet specifically reaches more middle-income and lower-income households (which has already happened since 2002), it will not reach its full potential in a “true revitalization of the public sphere,” therefore touching on the same point as Hung.

Will Internet blogs like Buffalo Geek one day be dominating the board rooms that gather our local politicians? The jury seems to be out still on this issue, while the general consensus among bloggers seems to be clearer: not yet, but the revolution is coming.


Thornton, A. (2002, October). Does Internet Create Democracy? Retrieved March 25, 2007, from

Hung, T. (2007, February 27). Blogging Can Affect Policits – On Local Level. The Blog Herald. Retrieved March 25, 2007, from

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Well I Guess This is Growing Up

One group that I am involved with that is entirely mediated online is MySpace. While this is one of the most common online communities out there today, I feel it is the only group online that I am a participant of which actually creates social ties in some way within the group.

Boyd (2006) writes an excellent section on to add a friend or not to add a friend in the MySpace community, discussing the social and relational ramifications of changing one’s Top 8 and such. The author cites MySpace as most likely the next step in life after inviting friends to your birthday party, then calling friends to hang out, and now rearranging your Top 8. I agree with this to some extent. I do feel, however, that age plays a major role in determining the consequences of something like a Top 8. In Boyd’s discussion, the argument is presented in a manner in which MySpace is for older kids, post-birthdays parties and post-calling friends to come over and hang out. There is nothing wrong with this initially, other than that no ceiling is placed on the age in which this sort of tacky drama tends to die down.

For instance, people of all ages, not just teenagers, are now using MySpace. Furthermore, some people are using the site for its actual original intention (MySpace had an original intention?!), to connect to others easily who otherwise may had been difficult to stay in touch with. Having said this, I have already reached the age (20) in which the Top 8 is no longer really “psychological warfare,” or at least not for anyone that I personally know. That is to say, my Top 8 currently represents the people I talk to on the most regular basis, or my closest friends, and everyone else is simply just a friend. This seems to be the pattern for most people my age, and in no way would I personally take offence to not being included on someone else’s Top 8. In fact, contrary to what Boyd’s article suggests, and again, I believe this sort of reciprocity is more common of younger users, two of the people in my Top 8 currently do not have me listed in theirs. “Some analysts have suggested that the greater the social and physical distance between the support seeker and provider (i.e., the weaker the tie), the less likely that reciprocity will take place” (Wellman and Gulia, 1996). I do not disagree with this at all. However, age is not mentioned or even taken into consideration in such a statement. While most of my friends and acquaintances live close by, this rule of reciprocity is simply not that important in effecting how those people and I socialize outside of the online community. Rarely would this ever come up in my social dialogue, unless it was in a humorous manner.

This brings me to my second point: MySpace has actually created conversational topics with my weak ties who, otherwise, I would not have much to discuss with when bumping into them. In other words, sometimes because I have a person listed as a friend on MySpace, that person and I are likely to view the same things on the site (blog updates, picture updates, other people’s pages in general, etc.). Therefore, upon seeing an acquaintance in which the conversation might sometimes be a little forced, there have been situations in which I have referred to MySpace, and they know exactly what I’m talking about. This breaks the tension, keeps the conversation flowing, and creates arguably an even stronger bond upon going separate ways than when we first ran into each other.

Was this MySpace’s original intention? Yes, in my opinion. The drama and the psychological warfare that teenagers go through on the site, it could be argued, is natural and no different than anything 50 years ago, and would have reared its ugly head in a different forum had MySpace not come along. As blink-182 eloquently put it, “well I guess this is growing up.”


Wellman, B. and Gulia, M. (1996, April). Net Surfers Don’t Ride Alone: Virtual Communities as Communities. Communities in Cyberspace. Retrieved March 20, 2007, from

Boyd, D. (2006, December). Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites. First Monday, v. 11(12). Retrieved March 20, 2007, from

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thoughts from Shutoutman

An online identity allows a person to create somewhat of a “second self,” and in order to maintain that identity, he or she must follow very similar rules to that of real life. To build rapport for an online identity, one must display the qualities of: trust, honesty, integrity, and to a degree, intelligence, much like that of a normal human being functioning in society. Once these qualities are displayed over time, whether it is through blogging, IMing, e-mail, commercial transactions, etc., an online identity assumes its own “personality” that people begin to recognize.

One online identity that I own, which I feel best portrays the term, is my eBay account which is listed under the username “Shutoutman.” Writes Donath, “There may be a clear and straightforward mapping from an account name to a real-world individual - or it may be deliberately opaque.” Created when I was just 13 years old in 1999 and certainly not opaque at the time, my account name was cleverly titled after the fact that I was determined to become a professional hockey goaltender. This account name has been my eBay identity and reputation for the entire duration of my use of the site. Though I do not use eBay as much I used to, whenever I do want to buy something, I have a nice cushion to return to in the form of my feedback. Feedback works as a give-take feature (and unwritten eBay rule) in which once a transaction is completed, buyer and seller are supposed to give each other a grade or comment about how well the other held up their end of the bargain. As a user buys or sells more items on the site, they can build up a positive rapport with other users by completing their transactions quickly and building a good “reputation.” It is very easy to have your username become trustworthy on the site, as many people will leave comments such as, “Excellent Job! Fast Payment! Highly Recommended!” Of course, reputation is something that one must maintain and monitor constantly in order to be beneficial to the user. Reputations are an “uncertain affair,” which can last for eternities for some but are destroyed by one single incident for others (Masum and Zhang, Trade).

Having stated how reputation can dissolve as quickly as overnight, there is always the possibly of “identity theft,” which involves the unauthorized use of your identity by someone else. As more information is collected on an individual, the easier it is for someone to impersonate that person and commit fraudulent moves online (Schneier). With eBay, it is very important that no one ever obtains your password. With your username and password, anyone could buy anything and refuse to pay for it, thus destroying your reputation in the form of inevitable negative feedback. Furthermore, when eBay first began, it lacked an intermediary that could handle the money transaction between buyer and seller. Therefore, the buyer (who always pays first), was putting his or her trust in the seller not to take the money and never ship the item. Fortunately, eBay has paired up with the identity-theft-fighting PayPal, which is a service that functions as a medium between buyer and seller (a la credit card companies). This way, no buyer or seller ever has to show one another any personal information besides a shipping address. PayPal handles the money transaction, thus reducing the risk of any stealing of information for personal gain.

Building a trustworthy reputation online is always helpful, and can be greatly beneficial, especially with commercial transaction sites such as eBay. While many new technologies and websites are popping up that effectively fight identity-theft, it is important for one to be smart about personal privacy on the Internet, as even a small form of carelessness can lead to disaster.


Donath, J.S. Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. (1996, November 12). Communities in Cyberspace. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from

Masum, H. and Yi-Cheng Zhang. Manifesto for the Reputation. (2004, June 15). First Monday. Retrieved February 22, 2007, from

Schneier, B. A Weblog Covering Security and Security Technology. (2005, April 15). Retrieved February 22, 2007, from

Friday, February 16, 2007

Oh...I...uhhh...didn't see you reading this...

Privacy, as stated by Bob Sullivan in, “Privacy Lost, Does Anybody Care?” is a very difficult thing for most people to define. My definition of privacy would stem from the simplest form of the word: private. To me, private means that there are certain thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are held by individuals. These aspects of life are always kept secret, or private, until a person wants them to be released in the form of expression. Even still, once these expressions are displayed, whether in hard copy form or in the form of actions or speech, one might not want these ideas to reach further beyond the point in which they were originally intended. Once these thoughts, feelings, or beliefs escape the comfort zone of the individual, this is an invasion of that individual’s privacy. While this is still a very rough and messy definition, the Internet is a device that is very dangerous in that it has the ability to break into that comfort zone of many different people. Governments, too, are getting smarter about tracing people online to stop illegal behavior. In one current matter, a number of European countries are looking to thwart fake e-mail IDs by proposing a legislation that requires companies to "keep detailed data about people's Internet and phone use that goes beyond what the countries will be required to do under a European Union directive" (Shannon).

Some of the biggest threats to an individual’s privacy on the Internet are simply out of the hands of that individual. For example, people get involved in many different activities in their lifetime, whether it be related to sports, academics, or simply holding many different jobs. The problem, one might realize upon “Googling” his or her self, is that many of these activities post things online that directly relate to particular individuals. Sports teams often post player profiles and statistics, academic institutions might brag about accomplishments or discoveries and put a name and a face behind them, and large companies may post brief biographies of top CEO-level or other high-profile employees. Unfortunately, these organizations might be doing more harm than good. While they may have the best of intentions to allow the public some insight into their members’ lives, they do not take into account who could be viewing this material and for what reasons.

While I do not have a striking or shocking invasion-of-privacy example for myself on the Internet, I did Google myself just to see what happened. The first thing I found was the homepage that I had to make for CSE111 at UB, which states that I am a sophomore in college. It also states that I live in Buffalo, N.Y., and some of my interests and hobbies. I was surprised to find this page, as I forgot that I had made it. I was a little annoyed that I forgot how to go back in and delete or change this page, as I don’t want to be forever associated with the things listed on the site. It is not that I have anything to hide, but rather that my interests and life experiences will surely change (if they haven’t already!). I found it interesting that if someone Googled my name, they could read old and possibly false information. On a larger scale, this must happen to people all the time. For instance, a CEO of a company might leave his position for a new company. If the website is not updated too often, he or she could still be listed as head of a company that they haven’t worked for in weeks, possibly months! That could lead to potentially embarrassing or confusing conversations or situations.

While I do not specifically fear my privacy being misused on the Internet, it does concern me to some degree that my name is already posted on so many different websites at the age of 20. I do not believe that taking measures such as avoiding spyware just to achieve a higher level of anonymity is really the best route for one to take (Wikipedia: Levels of Privacy). It will be interesting, however, to see if future action begins to take place in which companies, sports teams, etc. make a special effort not to make their members a matter of public interest.

Internet privacy. (2007, February 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:55, February 16, 2007, from

Shannon, Victoria. (2007, February 14). Proposed legislation called a threat to Internet users' privacy. Retrieved February 16, 2007 from