The Digital Equivalent of Kissing Babies While Campaigning
May 22, 2002

'House Approves Bill for Child-Friendly Domain Names:

'The House of Representatives' approved legislation designed to cordon off a safe online 'playground' for young children. House members voted 406-2 to approve the 'Dot-Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002,' which would mandate the creation of a "dot-kids" extension within America's sovereign "dot-us" Internet domain. ... [Ernie the Attorney]

'Ernie asks why this is a bad thing, so here's the answer....'

Good read. There's quite a bit more then what I'm quoting here, and it may not be clear who's saying what, since I had to kill the formatting. In regard to the Shifted Librarian's comment: 'I haven't followed up on this to see who is defining the standards for this domain, but I can't think of a single person (let alone committee or entity) that I would trust to do this for the entire country.', I went ahead and looked up the bill, but the linking is confusing me. This should go to the text of the bill as passed, but you may need to use this page; look up "dot-kids" and pick the first result.

According to the bill, the "National Telecommunications and Information Administration", which I don't think I've ever heard of before, is responsible for providing for the establishment, and overseeing operation, of a second-level Internet domain within the United States country code domain.

The direct penalty for failing to comply appears to be essentially limited to getting the that is in violation name revoked. The registrar appears to be responsible for maintaining the standards, and those who use the registrar will need to agree in writing that they will not violate the standards, so in theory you could get hit with breach-of-contract. But as long as the violation is not egregious (and possibly even if it is), I doubt anyone will care enough to actually prosecute.

Other interesting provisions: The NTIA is required to advertise the existance of the new domain. "Minor" in this bill means "under 13". At the end of the bill is the definition of "Harmful to minors" and "Suitable for Minors"... pretty standard "community standards" definitions.

BTW, I agree with everything the Shifted Librarian wrote, so that saves me the trouble... ;-)

Leaky Cyber Borders
May 22, 2002

Simson Garfinkel: 'Just as nations now regulate their physical frontiers, so too will they regulate their electronic ones--using computer security rather than objectionable ideas as their justification.'

This won't work very well on a national level, because of the virtual impossibility of determining what a bad packet is. A virus forwarded over email could very well be a McAfee employee in Europe forwarding something found in the wild to the main McAfee labs in the US. Most other "bad" documents may have similarly importent legitimate uses. On the national scale, you just can't block on any reasonable criterion without paying a horrible price (by which I mean actual money).

Of course, there are two consequences: One, the ways the legit senders find to get around the system will be quickly exploited by the same non-legit senders. Two, the cost of The Only Solution A Beauracrat Will Ever Think Of, more paperwork and trying to create a gigantic exceptions table, will be high. The exception table itself becomes a security liability as it goes out of date, and the cost of maintaining it is huge. (The cost of not maintaining it is also huge.)

Really, in the long term, the only viable solution is to make it easier for people to secure computers. We've still got a long ways to go on that front, though. It's another human complexity issue; the myriad of ways the web is used cannot be correctly administered from the top, it can only be approximentally administered. Unfortunately, every mistake made by the administration is another security hole.

I'm sure this will be tried, but I would guestimate only about two month's respite from the onslaught will be bought, before it returns to previous levels. Sorry. No magic solution.

(Note the original article is merely observing the likelihood of this firewall being constructed; he doesn't seem to express an opinion on the issue, so if you just read my comments here, don't draw any conclusions about the author's opinions.)

Bigs versus Smalls
May 17, 2002

Yesterday Creative Commons was announced. I just browsed the site quickly looking for a spec describing the XML format they're using. Megnut suggested that if blogging tools make it easy for people to declare their intentions and automatically generate the XML, that would be a good thing. I'm into helping if I can. First I gotta find the spec.

Let's say the spec emerges. One of [Userland, Blogger, LiveJournal] implement it and make it easy for their users to use this. Thanks to the very healthy competition in this space, the other two follow up within a week. (This assumes a simple "Creative Commons" spec, which is likely.) Bam; in two weeks, quite possibly less, a new XML standard has been rolled out to thousands of sites. In short order, tools that use this content will emerge, too.

Now... let's see Microsoft match that sort of performance.

Innovation doesn't come from the bigs.

Vanila Coke
May 15, 2002


The Death of Evangelism
May 14, 2002

The linked article is something I think I've been groping towards for a while, and I think it makes sense. Even if you aren't a Christian, it might help to read it; it speaks to something about marketing in general that we all have to deal with. In the age of professional advertising and targetted marketing, how do you ever find anything good, be it as importent as answers to the Great Questions, or as trivial as picking toothpaste. Both are now pitched as life-changing decisions.

The basic answer, "Live your choices", a stronger varient of "word of mouth" marketing, is good anyhow.

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