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Imagine the (legitimate) outcry if a local municipality, a State government, or the Federal government in the US deployed an infrastructure that would systematically identify and track people as they went about their daily lives, without a viable option to opt out. While the US has laws that govern when and how data about individuals [...] → Read More: Tracking

The curious case of the software patent

Critiques of software patents is all the rage lately, from bloggers like Daniel Tunkelang to the NPR. The list of problems with them includes that they stifle innovation, that they are tools to beat up small companies and startups, and that they are simply trading cards that big corporations use to protect each other at [...] → Read More: The curious case of the software patent

Dealing with censorship and other nonsense

The discussion on my previous post has raised some interesting and valid points regarding holding conferences in countries like China that block some (or all) internet traffic. Given that the conference has an audience that extends beyond the location of the conference, how can this audience be served in the presence of country-sponsored firewalls? Specifically, [...] → Read More: Dealing with censorship and other nonsense

Censoring conferences

A number of ACM groups have recently made decisions to hold their conferences in China. The list of major conferences includes CSCW2011, SIGIR2011,  Ubicomp 2011, and ICSE 2011, just to name a few. This seems like a strange trend. The purpose of academic conferences is to disseminate ideas in an open and public manner, and [...] → Read More: Censoring conferences

Don’t go there

The field of information retrieval is inherently (some might say pathologically) data-driven. We need datasets to test algorithms, to compare systems, etc. This is all good. It’s particularly good to have data that are meaningful and relevant, because it makes it easier to motivate users and to generalize findings to data that people care about. I [...] → Read More: Don’t go there

No such thing as bad press?

A recent NY Times article exposed the machinations of a sleazy guy who ran an online business that relied on links — positive, negative, whatever — to his web site that caused it to be promoted in Google search results. In fact, he found that by being nasty to his customers, his rankings improved. The [...] → Read More: No such thing as bad press?

Learning to apply the DMCA

Panos Ipeirotis posted a great, (unintentionally) funny letter one of his students received from some clueless person claiming that the student’s site warrants a DMCA take-down because it allegedly deprived another similar site of $0.52/day in revenue by affecting its page ranking in some search results.
The letter Panos quotes is worth reading for its sheer [...] → Read More: Learning to apply the DMCA