Tag Archives: internet

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Twelve dollars for five words? What is the Associated Press thinking?

I saw this on Reddit and had to comment. Follow this link. From now on if you want to quote an AP story in your blog, link to an AP headline, or email an article to your grandmother, this is the page they want you to see – including a price list that I’ll quote here:

Words Fees
5 – 25 $12.50
26 – 50 $17.50
51 – 100 $25.00
101 – 250 $50.00
251 and up $100.00

No, I am not making this up. The AP is really asking people to pay them $12.50 if they quote more than four words of any story. A nice long sentence with 26 words will cost you $17.50. Presumably this includes headlines, meaning the AP could come looking for cash if you even link to one of their stories with the relevant text.

Let’s put aside the fundamental misunderstanding of how the web works for a moment, and put it in terms that most journalists should understand: This pricing scheme amounts to prior constraint on any substantive criticism of the AP. One of the most important reasons we have fair use rights is to excerpt material for commentary or criticism. The AP says that this effort is directed against copyright infringement and sites that scrape and monetize their stories, but quoting 5, 25, even 50 words from an article is in most cases not copyright infringement–it’s attribution.

The AP runs stories on medical topics all the time. If a doctor wants to point out an error in an AP story on their blog, we had better hope they have the cash. Could you imagine being misidentified as the suspect in a crime, only to have the AP bill you when you point out the correction? It’s not like the AP never makes mistakes.

Heaven forbid someone working for a competing news agency wants to criticize the AP’s coverage for bias or political slant. That would require quoting sentences from many articles – perhaps thousands of dollars.

The AP even has the gall to quote prices for educational use. I’m sure the numerous Supreme Courts deciding Fair Use cases over the years would be pleased – it goes against all precedent, but hey, a coupon!

Outside of criticism, the AP’s own guidelines tell you why this is so important:

We should give the full name of a source and as much information as needed to identify the source and explain why he or she is credible. Where appropriate, include a source’s age; title; name of company, organization or government department; and hometown.

If we quote someone from a written document – a report, e-mail or news release — we should say so.

It’s just as important for writers in other media to use proper attribution. Writers should use direct quotes when it’s the fairest way to represent what someone else has said or written. How would the AP operate if every source they quoted demanded payment up front?

But, of course, they would never:

It means we don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.

This makes me sad. I’m a big proponent of professional journalism and I hate to see newspapers in such dire straits. But if this is representative of what the industry plans to do, I’m not sure they have much of a chance.

Wisdom of the Crowds – What To Do When Colbert Wins

I saw an AP story on MSNBC titled Oops: Colbert wins space station name contest. I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to letting the internet vote on a name, if there is such a field of expertise, and the article strikes me as wrongheaded.

It’s not an “oops” that Colbert won, nor is it a problem or a mistake. Assuming the result is due to voting viewers and the web’s general affection for Colbert, and not a voting bot, this is exactly what NASA wants. Or at least, what it should have wanted.

The point of putting something up for a vote online is to involve people in a fun way and come out with a result you might not have otherwise. You can’t have the wisdom of the crowds without expecting a bit of whimsy.

Here’s to NASA naming their module after Colbert.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Space Module: Colbert – Vote Now
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I Love Hospitals With WiFi, or Twittering Childbirth

When we were looking for hospitals and doctors offices for little Athena, wifi wasn’t really on the list so much as reputation, compatibility with our insurance, and other concerns.  In retrospect, though, thank goodness Stanford Hospital and Palo Alto Medical Foundation have wifi.

We live more than 2,000 miles from most of our family.  Not all of them could make the flight to California for the birth.  We also have too many friends around the country to possibly make all the phone calls we’d have liked to have made that night.  In addition, we had several thousand people all over the world wondering which name we would pick for our baby.

Because of internet connectivity, I was able to do a fair job of including all of them in the process:

1) With my iPhone, I was able to take and post photos during labor and delivery.  Photos of my mom’s new granddaughter were available for her, on Flickr, within minutes of birth:

Wrapped and swaddled

I’m not sure I can properly express here how much it meant to her and the rest of our family to be able to see Athena so quickly.

2)  Using the Twitterific App on my iPhone was was able to post updates to Twitter throughout the whole labor.  This is a perfect example of what Twitter is good for.  Liveblogging while my wife endures the pains of childbirth would be ridiculously insensitive, but there were always minutes of downtime here and there to tap out a few words describing what’s going on.


3)  Using the Twitter App for Facebook, my updates showed up on my Facebook status as well.  This was a big help, since so many more friends and family use Facebook than Twitter.

A fourth option, which we didn’t use but might have had the labor been longer, was videoconferencing with Skype.  We’ve been using Skype to keep in touch with family for some time.  It is currently my grandmother’s favorite thing to do.  Since we’ve been back home Athena has become the star of many family video sessions.

One final thing I have to mention is YouTube – we certainly weren’t going to share the gooey miracle of life with the world in streaming video, but my wife followed the videos fo several other women during pregancy up to and including labor.  We don’t know a lot of other couples having kids right now, so that gave Ann a personal connection with their stories and helped her through some of the tougher times during the last 9 months.  She could see that other people were going through the same things she was and that was an important comfort.

The common theme here, which I think goes a long way toward explaining the growth of the internet as a whole, is communication.  Because of almost universal connectivity, we were able to turn a deep personal experience into a social experience as well.