MENLO PARK, CA—It's been a month since Facebook Home launched to the Android masses. Though it's been met with mixed reviews—the app currently holds a two-star rating in the Google Play store—Facebook is still pushing updates, some of which are specifically tailored to those negative comments on the app’s reviews page.
To coincide with the update to the Facebook Home app on Android, Facebook held a whiteboard session at its campus today. Vice President of Mobile Engineering Cory Ondrejka and Director of Product Adam Mosseri addressed burgeoning concerns surrounding the social-centric application, in addition to detailing several new features planned for a future update. "The five star reviewers are pretty outspoken, saying things like, 'We love what cover feed is doing,'" said Ondrejka. "We spent a lot of time diving throughout the one-star ratings…and it really breaks into the categories of [what features are missing]."A look at what the next iteration of Facebook Home will look like with Folders and a Dock. (Apologies for the picture quality.)
In a forthcoming update, the application launcher that's a part of Home will include both Docks and Folders. These are two features of the Android operating system that have disappeared according to sad Home users. "We want to ease the transition from your old launcher to the new launcher," added Mosseri. When users swipe up to access their applications, the Dock will show up in addition to the rest of the applications.
The Ninth Circuit appeals court today turned down copyright troll Righthaven’s last ditch effort to salvage its failed business model, upholding the federal district court’s decision to dismiss its bogus copyright case on the grounds that it never actually held the copyrights it was suing under.
In one of the two cases decided together, EFF represents Tad DiBiase, a criminal justice blogger who provides resources for difficult-to-prosecute "no body" murder cases. Righthaven sued DiBiase in 2010 based on a news article that DiBiase posted to his blog. Instead of paying them off, DiBiase fought back with the help of EFF and its co-counsel at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, and helped drive Righthaven out of business.
The leading issue on appeal was whether a newspaper could transfer the right to sue for copyright infringement to a copyright troll, while retaining all other rights in the newspaper articles. (audio of argument) Under the Copyright Act, only the "owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is entitled ... to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it."
Righthaven attempted to get around this rule by drafting a document that pretended to transfer copyrights even as a secret agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media, the newspaper publisher, ensured that Stephens retained all of the rights to exploit the news articles. As the Ninth Circuit noted, citing a story about Abraham Lincoln: “we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.”
Nor was the Ninth Circuit impressed by Righthaven’s argument that the court should implement its intent, even if the contract drafting was not up to snuff. “The problem is not that the district court did not read the contract in accordance with the parties’ intent; the problem is that what the parties intended was invalid under the Copyright Act.” Finally, the Court rejected a desperate attempt by Righthaven to retroactively revise their contract after it started to lose in the courts.
With that, the court affirmed the lower court decisions tossing Righthaven’s cases. Since it had found that the Righthaven had no legal standing, it also vacated the decision in the companion case, Righthaven v. Hoehn, that had found fair use as an alternative grounds on which Righthaven lost.
The troll problem continues to persist, especially porn trolls, but today’s decision effectively ends one pernicious species by establishing that copyright owners cannot sell the right to sue to attorneys looking to make a quick buck off the back of bloggers, while otherwise doing business as usual.
In the appeal, Righthaven was represented by a new attorney, Erik Syverson of Miller Barondess. Righthaven's CEO and founder, Steven A. Gibson is now an attorney with Dickinson Wright. EFF, Colleen Bal and Evan Stern from the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers represent Mr. DiBiase. The appeal was consolidated with Righthaven v. Hoehn. Mr. Hoehn is represented by Marc Randazza and Jay DeVoy of the Randazza Legal Group.Related Cases: Righthaven v. DiBiase
The ruling party in New Zealand has decided to drop a controversial plan to expand patenting of software in the island nation. The move was hailed by IT professionals and open Internet advocates.
Earlier versions of the government's proposed overhaul to New Zealand's patent laws seemed to open the door to patents on software by only excluding patents that covered "a computer program as such." The opposition Labour Party warned that the words "as such" could be "fatal for Kiwi innovation," as it would be easy for companies to draft patents that effectively covered software inventions without claiming software "as such."
"It's not too late for Mr. Foss to change his mind and listen to our Kiwi software innovators," a Labour spokeswoman said earlier this year. "If not then his legacy will be one of massive failure for our local software industry."
This post was written with Andrés Monroy-Hernández. It is a summary of a paper just published in American Behavioral Scientist. You can also read the full paper: The remixing dilemma: The trade-off between generativity and originality. It is part of a series of papers I have written with Monroy-Hernández using data from Scratch. You can find the others on my academic website.
Remixing — the reworking and recombination of existing creative artifacts — represents a widespread, important, and controversial form of social creativity online. Proponents of remix culture often speak of remixing in terms of rich ecosystems where creative works are novel and highly generative. However, examples like this can be difficult to find. Although there is a steady stream of media being shared freely on the web, only a tiny fraction of these projects are remixed even once. On top of this, many remixes are not very different from the works they are built upon. Why is some content more attractive to remixers? Why are some projects remixed in deeper and more transformative ways?
We try to shed light on both of these questions using data from Scratch — a large online remixing community. Although we find support for several popular theories, we also present evidence in support of a persistent trade-off that has broad practical and theoretical implications. In what we call the remixing dilemma, we suggest that characteristics of projects that are associated with higher rates of remixing are also associated with simpler and less transformative types of derivatives.
Our study is focused on two interrelated research questions. First, we ask why some projects shared in remixing communities are more or less generative than others. “Generativity” — a term we borrow from Jonathan Zittrain — describes creative works that are likely to inspire follow-on work. Several scholars have offered suggestions for why some creative works might be more generative than others. We focus on three central theories:
Our second question focuses on the originality of remixes and asks when more or less transformative remixing occurs. For example, highly generative projects may be less exciting if the projects produced based on them are all near-identical copies of antecedent projects. For a series of reasons — including the fact that increased generativity might come by attracting less interested, skilled, or motivated individuals — we suggest that each of the factors associated with generativity will also be associated with less original forms of remixing. We call this trade-off the remixing dilemma.
We answer both of our research questions using a detailed dataset from Scratch, where young people build, share, and collaborate on interactive animations and video games. The community was built to support users of the Scratch programming environment, a desktop application with functionality similar to Flash created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch is designed to allow users to build projects by integrating images, music, sound, and other media with programming code. Scratch is used by more than a million users, most of them under 18 years old.
To test our three theories about generativity, we measure whether or not, as well as how many times, Scratch projects were remixed in a dataset that includes every shared project. Although Scratch is designed as a remixing community, only around one tenth of all Scratch projects are ever remixed. Because more popular projects are remixed more frequently simply because of exposure, we control for the number of times each project is viewed.
Our analysis shows at least some support for all three theories of generativity described above. (1) Projects with moderate amounts of code are remixed more often than either very simple or very complex projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators are more generative. (3) Remixes are more likely to attract remixers than de novo projects.
To test our theory that there is a trade-off between generativity and originality, we build a dataset that includes every Scratch remix and its antecedent. For each pair, we construct a measure of originality by comparing the remix to its antecedent and computing an “edit distance” (a concept we borrow from software engineering) to determine how much the projects differ.
We find strong evidence of a trade-off: (1) Projects of moderate complexity are remixed more lightly than more complicated projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators tend to be remixed in less transformative ways. (3) Cumulative remixing tends to be associated with shallower and less transformative derivatives. That said, our support for (1) is qualified in that we do not find evidence of the increased originality for the simplest projects as our theory predicted.
We feel that our results raise difficult but important challenges, especially for the designers of social media systems. For example, many social media sites track and display user prominence with leaderboards or lists of aggregate views. This technique may lead to increased generativity by emphasizing and highlighting creator prominence. That said, it may also lead to a decrease in originality of the remixes elicited. Our results regarding the relationship of complexity to generativity and originality of remixes suggest that supporting increased complexity, at least for most projects, may have fewer drawbacks.
As supporters and advocates of remixing, we feel that although highly generative works that lead to highly original derivatives may be rare and difficult for system designers to support, understanding remixing dynamics and encouraging these rare projects remain a worthwhile and important goal.
For more, see our full paper, “The remixing dilemma: The trade-off between generativity and originality.” Published in American Behavioral Scientist. 57-5, Pp. 643—663. (Official Link, Pay-Walled ).
Judge Otis Wright's bombshell order earlier this week doesn't only raise the possibility that Prenda's senior figures will wind up in orange jumpsuits some day. It also further complicates ongoing litigation elsewhere. The porn trolling firm's opponents across the country are rushing to alert their local judges of Judge Wright's order in hopes of inviting similar scrutiny of Prenda's legal tactics.
One district where a defendant has asked to submit Judge Wright's opinion to the court is the Northern District of Georgia. In response, Prenda's local attorney, Jacques Nazaire, has raised a remarkable series of arguments for excluding Judge Wright's ruling from consideration by the Georgia court. He claims that Georgia courts should ignore Judge Wright's order because California recognizes gay marriage and Georgia doesn't.
We recommend (but do not require) that all users take this time to change their passwords, update their security questions/answers and review their other account information.
How do ethics and the free market interact? As the authors of a new paper on the topic point out, the answer is often complicated. In the past, Western economies had vigorous markets for things we now consider entirely unethical, like slaves and Papal forgiveness for sins. Ending those practices took long and bloody struggles. But was this because the market simply reflects the ethics of the day, or does engaging in a market alter people's perception of what's ethical?
To find out, the authors of the paper set up a market for an item that is ethically controversial: the lives of lab animals. They found that, for most people, keeping a mouse alive, even at someone else's cost, is only worth a limited amount of money. But that amount goes down dramatically once market-based buying and selling is involved.
The research was done at the University of Bonn, which appears to have a biology department that includes researchers who study mouse genetics. As Mendel told us, genes are inherited independently. So as these researchers are breeding mice to get a specific combination of genes, they'll inevitably get mice that have the wrong combination. Since proper mouse care is expensive and lab mice typically live a couple of years, it's standard procedure to euthanize these unneeded mice.
In the wake of a gold duplication bug that let savvy players mine their own in-game currency, Blizzard is now conducting a full audit of auction house transactions to remove any impact on the wider in-game and real-money economies.
Blizzard identified and fixed the duplication bug shortly after it was discovered following Tuesday morning's introduction of the 1.0.8 patch to the game. But the developer has kept the in-game auction houses closed and has prohibited gold trading since then as it tries to determine just how the illicit in-game currency affected the auction market for items and weaponry. Blizzard currently estimates auction services will be down until some time on Friday afternoon at the earliest, long past the target time of 9am Pacific today, when Blizzard had expected normal service to resume.
"This audit is a time-intensive process, and to make sure that we can do a thorough job, we’re going to keep the Auction Houses in maintenance until that work is complete," Community Manager Lylirra said apologetically in a forum post announcing the move.
A new product called Beamcaster distributes beams of light to create wireless networks, providing an alternative or supplement to Wi-Fi and eliminating much of the cabling used to connect office workers to the Internet and corporate networks.
RiT Wireless, the makers of Beamcaster, demonstrated the technology this week at the Interop networking conference in Las Vegas. A Beamcaster "optical distribution unit" is mounted on a ceiling, distributing invisible beams of light to eight "smart outlets." (You might call them "frickin' laser beams.") In a typical setup, the smart outlets could be placed on top of a cubicle wall and hook up to PCs via Ethernet, giving workers access to the Internet and corporate networks. Connecting those smart outlets to standard switches would increase the number of PCs each smart outlet could connect to.
This setup reveals an obvious limitation—smartphones and tablets typically don't have Ethernet ports. However, a Beamcaster smart outlet can connect to a Wi-Fi router, distributing the signal to Wi-Fi-capable devices. Future versions of the smart outlet will have 802.11ac Wi-Fi built in, RiT Wireless CTO Erez Ben Eshay told me at the Beamcaster booth yesterday.
Per recent rumors, YouTube has announced its intent to provide paid subscription channels, according to a blog post Thursday. The company is doing a pilot program for the subscriptions with a handful of partners and will start subscriptions at 99 cents per month.
The two most recognizable names attached to the program so far are Sesame Street and Ultimate Fighting Champion, which will both offer shows via paid subscription. Other experimental paid shows include JusticeCentral.TV, PGA Digital Golf Academy, and a channel for the educational TV show Franklin.
YouTube states that once users are subscribed to a channel, they will be able to view the content on computers, smartphones, tablets, and TVs. The blog post also says that “soon you’ll be able to subscribe to them from more devices.”
People performing searches this afternoon on YouTube for videos to watch are being treated to an ominous-looking banner perched atop the search results, warning them that their search results might contain "confidential content," like this:These videos aren't actually confidential.
Though it looks forbidding, Google assures us that the banner's visibility is actually due to a snafu rather than anything nefarious or secret. When the banner started appearing in our own search results, Ars reached out to Google for comment. A spokesperson explained that the anomalous banner is due to "a bug" and that its presence is entirely accidental.
YouTube also quickly reacted with a tweet to assure folks that nothing worrisome was happening:
On a field in Aigues-Mortes, France, armies from 22 nations are clashing. Armed and armored in medieval style, the combatants are vying for the title in this years' Battle of the Nations western martial arts championship. The entire thing is being streamed live on YouTube. This isn't a contest of foam on foam or even blunted wooden swords—the weapons and armor are period-accurate, and the risk of injury is real.
The event runs from May 9 to May 12, and it includes "mass combat" with teams of 21 "knights" per squad. The armies assault each other in what to the uninitiated looks like an armored hockey fight without skates and ice. The US team is also streaming the event from its website and posting the replay from each day's activities. In two mass combat heats today, the US routed Team Italy in a little more than a minute without taking any "casualties" (when three body parts touch the ground, you're out). Later on, the Americans lost a hard-fought battle with Ukraine.
There are three other battle formats scheduled for the event, including 1-on-1 and 5-on-5. The "all against all" battles are still to come; in these matches participants are pulled into two armies and the side that includes the last man standing claims victory.