July 2, 2001-- Newsletter #137
Goodies to Go (tm)
July 2, 2001--Newsletter #137
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
From the "how is this possible" department, I used the Web to check into a round-trip flight from New Orleans, LA to Raleigh, Durham, NC. I went to three sites and the prices were, get this, over $220 dollars apart. Someone is not playing fair, or "fare" as the case will be. I bought the cheap one. It actually has a better departure time anyway. I'm looking forward to seeing the gardens on the Duke Campus.
Did you hear...
At the time of my writing this newsletter, New York State is a signature away from becoming the first state to ban talking on hand-held cellular phones while driving. It may be law by now. If you're caught, it's a $100 fine. Of course, the term "hand-held" is the loophole. Companies that make hands-free devises for cell phones stand to make a ton of cash. Still, I like the idea. More times than I can remember, people driving those huge SUVs have come a little too close to me while gabbing away on the phone. I saw on my local news last night that Louisiana is also considering a ban on phones. I hope it passes.
Earthlink has raised it fees in the wake of AOL's decision to do the same. If you're an Earthlink customer, expect a $2 monthly increase.
The days of the Dick Tracy "two-way wrist radio and video device" are just around the corner. Yahoo has announced that it is adding video to its instant messenger system. The video will come in at, get this, one frame per second. Of course this is just the beginning. In three years the video might very well be television quality. But as for now...move slowly.
Now onto today's topic...
I have an ethical question for all of you.
I am a teacher. I teach Web design. I am, in fact, teaching the class this coming semester. I'd like you to put yourself into my place and think about how you would have handled the following situation.
I require that every student create a six-page final Web site. If they are not creating a personal Web site, I require that they run their topic idea past me before delving in. I have set parameters that must be met for a personal Web site. Other sites must at least meet those requirements. That's why I like to have the idea run past me.
One of my male students came to me to ask about a topic his final Web site project. Mind you, this was a very good student. He was not a jokester nor flippant in any way. He was also a joy to have in class. His topic?
He wanted to put up a pornography site.
I sat there waiting for his face to crack and for us both to giggle. It never happened. This young man truly wanted to do a pornography site.
After a quick mental run-through of the school's policies, I told the student that wouldn't be acceptable because the university server didn't accept "obscene" material to be posted on the server.
He said that would be fine and that he would post it on an ISP under a virtual domain name.
I said that he might be searching long and far to find such an ISP. No dice. He knew of one.
What about content? Where will you get content?
He had some leads.
I finally just said, flat out, that I wouldn't allow him to do a pornography site for a final project as my clever attempt at talking him out of it failed.
He then asked if I would help him by looking at a site he would create after the class was over. He basically wanted me to consult for a porn site he would make after the class had ended.
Herein lies the moral concern. It was easy to wash my hands of the university project. I just simply said "no" citing the school's rules on the subject. I serve on the Web committee so I was fairly versed in them.
I had always thought, in the past, that people had used HTML Goodies to create less-than-upstanding Web sites, but this is the first time it has actually been brought up and placed in front of my face. I was teaching someone and that person was going to turn around and create something that I wouldn't want my mother to see.
But it's not illegal. What he wants to do is certainly on the up and up.
Would you help him out? Would you take the steps to ensure that the site built was the best it could be?
I must admit that I was intrigued by the idea. It was certainly a topic I had never attempted to design for in the past. I actually found myself in thought regarding how I would move users through the site rather than just create some sleazy thing with pictures thrown around like leaves off a tree. I found myself hanging onto a few SPAM emails that suggested a business opportunity to those who could make a site. I could make a site. I could make it stunning. I could make it interesting. I could make it art.
Darn it! I could make a pretty good pornography site!
Could you? Would you? Would you if no one knew about it? Would you if you could keep it private and make a small pile of money? What if you could make a large pile of money? A supplier would get you the content. You wouldn't have to get anywhere near the content end. All you would have to do is build the site, set the advertiser code and keep the errors to a minimum.
How about it? Would you?
It was foremost in my mind for a while. I gave it some serious thought. Then I gave him my answer.
Read the pornography laws of the U.S. and the State of Louisiana. In addition, read the Communications Decency Act. Consult a lawyer too. You're going this one alone.
Nope. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I toyed with the idea and to this day wonder what kind of site I would have built.
I'll never know.
That's that. Thanks for reading.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: The Mississippi watermelons have arrived here in Louisiana! For three or four dollars you can get a melon that will take you six or seven sittings to eat. Oh man, are they sweet. If you're like me, you find yourself spitting the seeds for distance. Well, have you ever gone over 30 feet? The record for watermelon seed spitting currently topped 75 feet in 1996. That's 25 yards. That means that if the spatter were standing at home plate, he would clear the pitcher's mound. Gosh.