MediaFile

Don’t you dare call us

Remember how we all did the happy dance when the U.S. government created the Do Not Call Registry back in 2003? How we popped the champagne corks because hefty civil penalties could be given to a telemarketer if they called your landline after you had opted-in on the registry? Sure, there are loopholes and enforcement problems but essentially the registry works, and it restored the natural order of things by liberating us from having to drop everything because some faceless, money-grubbing salesperson rang in our living rooms.

A mere eight years later landlines are a dying technology. Cool kids, lower-income people, and savvy middle-agers know there’s really no need for a “home phone.” We’ve never had to worry about mobile phone spam because there is a FCC rule against it. This restriction was premised largely on the fact that, unlike on a landline, receiving a wireless call can cost something to the recipient. Same is true for faxes, for the same reason: unsolicited faxes — i.e., spam — is a civil violation.

But, aside from the practical rationale, this dynamic reflects the fundamental truth that I have a phone to make calls and receive them from whom I choose. I’m not paying all this money to establish a marketing beachhead in my pocket.

Well, hang on to your smartphones: Telemarketers are trying to recreate in mobile what the DNC Registry and the demise of landlines rendered moot. If we don’t make a huge stink about this right now there is a chance, however slight, that robo telemarketing calls will make a come back, on steroids.

This abomination is being teed up as HR 3035, aka the “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.” It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and give legal cover to the cretins of commerce who think they have the right to get your attention, anywhere you happen to be, by leveraging the reality that mobile phones are everywhere and the primary means of communication for hundreds of millions of people.

Congress plans Facebook “hackathon” to boost engagement with public

Top legislators on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Thursday they will work with Facebook engineers and independent developers to make it easier for the public to engage with lawmakers and follow the legislative process.

The first-ever Congressional Facebook Developer Hackathon will take place Dec. 7 at the Capitol, bringing together lawmakers, academics and developers to find ways to make Congress more transparent and accessible.

A hackathon, a term coined by computer programmers over a decade ago, generally refers to a meeting where new programs and applications are collaboratively developed.

The Catch-22 of Google Books

booksIt’s almost a Zen Koan: How many books does a library make?

For Google the answer is: “All of them.”

As of last August that particular number was about 129 million, and since then probably tens of thousands have been added to the world’s shelves, even if you exclude Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s A Shore Thing.

Some tiny fraction of that immense number is good enough for nearly every library in the world, be it the Library of Congress, the world’s largest, or modest locations which are no less devoted to the preservation and dispensation of the world’s collected knowledge.

For Google, though, it’s all or nothing: The Google Books Project — “one company’s audacious attempt to create the largest and most comprehensive library in the history of the world” as wired.com correspondent Ryan Singel put it — began nearly a decade ago.