Jack Action writes: The University of British Columbia runs a summer camp where kids get to play computer games for three hours a day. The camp organizers say it is "a good social opportunity for some kids who didn't fit into other programs."
However, health professionals declare they are "troubled" by the camp. A professor in UBC's department medicine says kids should be outside, and engaged in "unstructured play"; while the CEO of a NGO that monitors kids' health chimes in that they already spend too much time in front of screens and not exercising.
So what is it? Do the health experts have a point, or are they just criticizing something that they don't understand, or perhaps is not to their taste?
Jack Action writes: "Police in Cambridge, Ontario are investigating a 700-hundred member Facebook group that was dedicated to harassing and posting humiliating photos of a black, apparently homeless woman. Called "Obeeba Sightings" (the name group administers gave to the woman), Facebook members called the woman racist and sexually explict names, and called for her to be run over by a car and put in a trash compactor. In their response to the incident, Cambridge police indicated Facebook cooperated fully with them in their investigation to the point of handing over IP addresses for all those involved in the group; at which point Facebook shut down the group. Police say it is the worst case of online harassment they have ever seen.
Recent research indicates Facebook is homogeneous even by the standards of the internet, and that members of social networks are more likely to "cyber-bully." Is this a sign that cyber-bulling will get worse as social networks make themselves more like-minded and exclusive? Should companies like Facebook be held responsible for the bad behaviour of their members? Or is this just the nature of distance and anonymity on the internet?"
Jack Action writes: "Small computer stores, even those with a few locations are being squeezed by big boxes like Best Buy and Staples using PC's, especially notebooks, as loss leaders. According to the Globe and Mail, spending on computer products at small retailers in the Canadian market dropped in half over the last year, while at the same time jumping by 29% at big box stores. Elsewhere, even large chains like CompuServe and Circuit City are in trouble.
Small retailers in the Canadian market have had to make innovative changes to stay alive: slashing staff, paying for assembly by the piece, negotiating bulk orders from vendors, and emphasizing customs orders for the geek market — but still its a struggle. Is the loss of the local neighbourhood computer store the inevitable outcome of the market, or will something valuable be lost if they all go down the tubes?"
Jack Action writes: "A researcher at Canada's National Research Council has an interesting post on his personal blog. You guessed it, he predicts the Semantic Web will fail. Why? The researcher notes the rising problems with Web 2.0 (MySpace blocking outside widgets, Yahoo ending Flickr identities, rumours Google will turn off its search API), and predicts these will also cripple the Semantic web: "The Semantic Web will never work because it depends on businesses working together, on them cooperating.." There is no way they: "(1) would agree on web standards (hah!) (2) would adopt a common vocabulary (you don't say) (3) would reliably expose their APIs so anyone could use them (as if)."
Is he right? Is the Semantic Web doomed to failure. (I hope Sir Tim doesn't hear about this)."
Jack Action writes: Momofuku Ando, the inventor of "Chicken Ramen" — the original instant noodle — has died at age 96. Mr. Ando introduced his "Ramen" series of noodles in 1958 to help ease post-WWII food shortages in Japan, and they became an "instant" success. Mr Ando's noodles went into outer space in 2005 on the Space Shuttle ("Space Ram"), and a museum dedicated to his invention was opened in Japan in 1999. They also changed the lives of countless college students and geeks everywhere, and for many are the symbol of non-Western fast food. On this day of the inventor's passing, what are your thoughts on his legacy to the world?
Jack Action writes: "Citing the U.S. Patriot Act, a group of Canadian Universities have moved research information stored in the popular RefWorks online database out of the U.S. to a server at the University of Toronto. Researchers worry about how topics of research would be viewed: "Amid heightened fears about terrorist activities, Canadian university officials worry that if the research is of a sensitive nature, it could be misunderstood. For example, an academic researching North Korea or nuclear weapons could find the work flagged by the Bush government, university librarians fear." Now that there is no longer a "Bush government" in Washington, are these concerns overblown? Have other University workers noticed similar concerns among non-U.S. colleagues? As a side note, the alarm bell in this case was sounded by University librarians — once more at the forefront of protecting our civil liberties."
Jack Action writes: "The debate on GPLv3 has up until now been intense, though largely civil. The most extreme accusations thrown around are charges of being "egocentric" or "naive." But an article on GPLv3 in Forbes Magazine, has now brought personal attacks to the debate.
Forbes writer Daniel Lyons has called GPL writer Richard Stallman "corpulent and slovenly, with long, scraggly hair." The article quotes Simon Lok, of Lok Technology in San Jose, calling Free Software Foundation members "jackasses." The article also implies that Stallman is a terrorist, perhaps the worst contemporary insult, calling his advocacy of GPLv3 a "suicide-bomber move" and adding that supporters of GPLv3 are "online jihadists."
Does this sort of approach cheapen the legitimate discussion on GPLv3? Are personal attacks to be expected as FOSS software moves into the larger business world and billions of dollars are at stake? Or is this the beginning of a disinformation campaign similar to what Linus Thorvalds was subjected to by Ken Brown and the Alexis de Toqueville Institution?"
Jack Action writes: "In what appears to be direct attack on China's status as an outsourcing heaven, the New York Times is reporting that the Chinese government is making a serious attempt to strengthen the hand of unions in the country. Fearing social unrest because of widening income inequality, the Chinese government recently asked for unprecedented public input as it drafts a new labour law (there were 190,000 responses to its request). Predictably (cynics would say), the American Chamber of Commerce has panned the proposed law, and major multi-nationals have hinted they'll build factories elsewhere.
Is this the inevitable "rising boat" scenario that many have predicted will take the bloom off outsourcing, or will the power of Western investors prevail and defeat the new law?"