November 22, 1999 -- Newsletter #55

By Joe Burns


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

November 22, 1999 -- Newsletter #55
Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com

Greeting, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear

A small feminist bookstore that has been calling itself Amazon since 1970 settled a lawsuit with Amazon.com over the usage of the name. The deal allows both to keep the name by Amazon.com licensing use to the Minneapolis bookstore.

In the ultimate computer retro statement, PONG is back. I still remember playing pong on a small black and white TV with those big fat bulky paddle controllers. My friend and I would always set the controllers to their highest point so the paddles would simple wrap around the screen at lightening speed. Wed then sit back and watch the white blip basically play by itself. Not Pong TNL (The Next Level) has 20 levels of the game with different playing fields and obstacles to make it more interesting. Of course, you can always just play the classic pong. *yawn*

You know whats going to be big this year? Online gift registration. Those of us whom are married know all about this. You announce the date and then run to all the high priced stores and choose the stuff you want people to buy for you. Well, thanks to the Web and massive amounts of hard drive space, sites like WishClick.com, WishConnect.com, and eWish.com all will allow you to set up a registry for any occasion. Just remember kids you can register all you want, but Mom and Dad dont understand the Web enough to read what you wrote. (At least that sounds like a viable excuse).

If a person is building your Website, should he or she technically be a contractor? And shouldnt you be able to look at prices and accept bids and such? Well, now eConstructors.com is on line just to do that. You can pick a programmer in just the area youre looking for or find someone to build your entire site. That sounds fair.

Now onto todays topic

What do you think of pornography sites on the Web? Do you even think about them? I usually bring them up in my classes when I want a rousing discussion about individuals rights and how those rights affect others. It gets a solid shouting match going.

Heres the major problem. No matter what you think about pornography sites on the Web, they are legal. That means were not going to get rid of them, so we need to be concerned about how and where they fit into the world of the Web.

Heres another fact you may not know. People who design and build for the Web actually like what pornography sites do for the Web. No, I dont mean the pictures, I mean the advancement of technology.

Pornography sites are one of the very few genres on the Web that are actually making money. These sites are making money hand over fist actually. That allows the companies to have research and development money. That money is used to find new, and better, methods of delivering images, video, sound, live broadcasts, and the like. That research then makes its way out onto the Web to be used by others.

Where the argument over pornography often goes, and where it goes in this newsletter, is how to stop minors from looking at the material. Here again, contrary to popular belief, legitimate pornography sites do not want minors looking at their pages. There is simply too much money to be made legally. Maybe youve heard of programs called Cybersitter and Net Nanny? They are blocking programs that pornography sites can submit their links to, to have them blocked. They dont want the kids in there any more than you do.

(Please understand I am talking about the majority of sites there will always be the peddlers that will try to get users at any cost. Nothing will stop them.)

So why am I bringing this up? Well, a year ago, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) went into effect. It stated, among other things, that to enter a site that had material considered harmful to minors, users must supply some kind of unique ID so that the site can be pretty sure that the person entering the site is who he says he is.

The problem is that the wording got in the way, harmful to minors. We all knew that meant pornography, but it didnt work out that way. The ACLU, on behalf of 17 plaintiffs including bookstores, and an online community that posted information about AIDS, filed suit blocking the order. Their reasoning was that setting up this kind of unique ID system would infringe upon the rights of legitimate adult users.

The ruling has sat now for a year but will be tested again as lawyers head into court on Thursday, November 5, 1999 to argue the sides of the case.

I dont like the chances of those wanting the unique IDs this time around. If you remember back before COPA, there was the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Basically, it said that sites providing obscene (whatever we might decide that is) material must put up a firewall and ask for some type of unique permission to enter.

The CDA didnt last a lawsuit. It was struck down as unconstitutional as soon as it came up before a judge.

So now the fight begins again. I dont think theyll win, but if they do then someone will have to come up with a method of setting unique identifiers. Do you know what is being touted as the perfect identifier? Credit card numbers.

Anyone besides me have a problem with that? It makes sense because usually minors dont have credit cards. You have to pay to get into a lot of these sites. If a minor does use a card it can be tracked. Its great, right?

If credit card numbers are the answers then that means it is a federal mandate that one has a credit card to get into these sites. That means it is a law that you need to pay to get into these sites. Anyone else think this sounds like a bully being punished by being allowed to take shots at the smaller kids?

I know what youre thinking, theyll just use the credit card numbers and not charge the card. HA! No way. If credit card numbers are the answer then every site that carries pornography will require them. That will lead to all pornography sites requesting a couple of bucks to get in. Now, Im all for profit, but not because the government mandates it.

And yes, there will be a cost passed along to the consumer. A site is not going to set up unique identifier system out of the kindness of their hearts. The cost will be passed along. This is also bad in that a site could set up the credit card number system, call an entry charge a cost of doing business mandated by the government and charge while running a free site.

Using credit card numbers will effectively make the online pornography industry a pay-for only genre. A government mandate that will make sure you pay for something that you could get for free before. Thats not good.

So what next? If the site is free now, will the government make you not charge when credit card numbers come into play? No way again. The government cannot stop someone from making a profit.

See where Im going with this? I just have one question...

Where are my federally mandated couple-of-bucks?

HTML Goodies sits on the Web as clean as a whistle. If credit card numbers are the answer then all I need to do is plop Miss March onto the homepage and Im good to go.

I believe this entire argument is moot because COPA wont win the argument, but if they do. Please dont allow credit card numbers to be the answer. Make the sites set up some other kind of password/unique identifier that doesnt pull money into the picture.

I wonder if its not best that COPA and the CDA are unsuccessful. It always bothers me when someone or in this case something is asked to police itself.

I had a wonderful conversation with a mother who was nervous about her son being able to view pornography on the Web. She asked me what programs she could buy. I told her to save some money and simply take the monitor cable with her when she left the house in the morning. She does.

Yes, I know. Her son can go to a friends house. He could find bad stuff in other places, but in her words, Im sure not going to make it easy on him.


And thats thatthanks for listening to my little rant.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Never pull bad riddles upon people who have time on their hands to find an answer. There is a riddle that goes: There are three words in the English language that end in GRY. Two are HUNGRY and ANGRY. The third one everyone uses every day and knows what it stands for. If you listened carefully, I already told you the word." The riddle answer is suppose to be "Language". Get it? There are three words in "The English Language". Yes, a bad riddle, but one you can easily meet by knowing a third word that ends in "gry". There are actually over 100 depending on how arcane you allow your answers to get. Here are three just for fun. Use them wisely. aggry, a glass bead worn by people in parts of Africa. puggry, a scarf worn around a hat or helmet for protection meagry, a meager appearance (that would be improved by an aggry or a puggry no doubt.) Also "gry" itself is a word. maybe. I found two definitions: A tenth of something (obsolete, by Locke), or the sound a pig makes (obviously a phonic more than a word). See: http://einstein.et.tudelft.nl/~arlet/puzzles/sol.cgi/language/english/spelli ng/gry for all 100 plus.

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